Weekend Things

Tea for Two | YanYan Zhang on Flickr

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Are you having a good weekend? I hope you are. I hope you’re sleeping in late and making some very good pancakes.

I write this sleep deprived, from an airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m en route to my parents’ home in Florida, and have a three-hour layover. Yes, that’s right, three hours in an airport at 6 AM. I’ll take three hours over a rushed thirty minutes, but it’s still a long time.

There are really only three things I like to do during layovers– nap, read things on the internet, and buy Cinnabons. While I can’t share my Cinnabons (or my naps, sorry!) here are the links that have been keeping me busy.

Very Good Pancakes

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

Confession time: I’ve never been good at making pancakes. Pancakes, the quick-and-easy staple of the American kitchen. Almost everyone I know will choose to make their own batch before reaching for a box of Bisquick. But truth be told, I’ve never had more consistent results than with a box of mix. I have tried so many pancake recipes, and very few of them have worked out well for me. (Especially buttermilk pancakes that use baking soda as the sole leavening. Seriously?!)

Very Good Pancakes | Kitchen in the Hills

But pancakes shouldn’t be hard to pull off.

You shouldn’t have to mix and measure and mix again, dirtying every dish in your kitchen.

And you definitely shouldn’t have to spend Saturday morning with a plate of too-chewy, too-dense, too-icky-sweet pancakes. Especially not after all that effort.

I’m a firm believer in pancake simplicity.

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How to Roast Artichokes

How to Roast Artichokes

I never envisioned this blog as a place for how-tos, but I’m liking these simple posts. Photographed step-by-steps of kitchen basics. This might turn into a series.

I’ve shot a few of these posts so far. While I imagined them as a way to share my kitchen knowledge, I’ve actually learned a few new tricks myself. Take this post on artichokes, for example. I had never roasted them before testing out this recipe for the blog.

How to Roast Artichokes

It has been years since I had an artichoke— three, maybe four years. My parents used to steam them for family dinners every once in a while, but artichokes mostly looked intimidating to me. Sharp, spiky, messy to eat, and how on earth are you supposed to cook them without turning them mushy? The flavor of an artichoke is incredible, but hardly ever seemed with the work.

I’ve eaten steamed artichokes my whole life, which are easy enough to make. But I was recently told that grilled artichokes are the gold standard. I don’t own a grill, and I still haven’t had an artichoke with that special charcoal smokiness. But what I do have is a very hot oven.

I bought a bunch of artichokes and opted to roast them, concentrating their flavor and adding just a touch of caramelization.

How to Roast Artichokes

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Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

Sorry not sorry.

That’s really all I can say about this sandwich.

Crispy, buttery goodness. Gooey filling. Delicious vegetal bitterness, first from the baby swiss cheese, then from the hand ground spinach-almond-olive oil pesto. And just the right amount of salt.

This sandwich is not a health food.

I recently caught myself saying to a friend, “Most of the things I cook are pretty healthy. Well, except for the stuff I make for the blog, of course.” And while I regretted for a moment that this blog wasn’t a space exclusively for healthy food— an instagram-perfect fruit salad or the kind of kale and quinoa dishes that are good for your heart— I quickly got over it.

It’s ridiculous to believe that we can live off grilled cheese alone (impossible, I’ve tried it), and of course the healthier the food the better for our bodies. Ninety percent of my diet is not this. It’s mostly whole grains and veggies and proteins. But I also believe that food should also be celebrated— celebratory, lavish, extravagant, unapologetic, and just crazy at times.

Not all the time. But sometimes.

Look at this:

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

It is so over-the-top.

This sandwich begins with pesto, hand ground for one in a mortar and pestle. You could certainly double or triple the recipe and make it in a small food processor.

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Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

You’d think that having a blog means writing about whatever, whenever.

Truth is, I’m sitting here trying to write a blog post about cold weather St. Patrick’s day food when all I want to talk about is warm weather recipes. Pressed juices! Grain salads! Popsicles! A million glasses of lemonade!

But we’re keeping it together. At least for a couple more weeks.

Okay? Okay.

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

As far as winter veggies go, cabbage is pretty darn good. Lovely spring green, crinkled leaves, a lot of crunch, and buttery tenderness when cooked. I recently had crunchy raw cabbage with the best ever aioli at a Japanese restaurant. Heaven.

Why we’re relegated cabbage to the “unlovable” category is beyond me. Everyone loves brussels sprouts, kale, even lowly chard. But I’m yet to hear from someone that they just love cabbage. 

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Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf | Kitchen in the Hills

I must be the only person I know who is looking forward to daylight savings time. I will happily lose an hour of sleep once if it means later sunrises, later sunsets, and longer days. I have been craving those extra hours of light. Days long enough and light enough to allow time for work and a sunset hike. Clear skies and brighter stars and everything in bloom. And I somehow feel like I have more time to get everything done if the sun is out longer— it may not make perfect sense, but my brain works in crazy ways.

It finally feels like the start of spring over here— warm weather and sunshine, iced coffee, longer days, better photographs more time outdoors.

But the start of spring means the end of winter produce, and I’m determined to try as much of it as I can before it goes out of season.

Blood Orange Poppy Seed Loaf | Kitchen in the Hills

I enjoy produce, and I try to buy a lot of it. How I went so long without having a blood orange is a mystery to me. Finally this year, at the tail end of the season, I tried one for the first time.

The flavors were such a surprise to me. A bittersweet orange, with just the faintest hint of tart. The minute I bit into a slice, I thought, “this would go perfectly with vanilla.”

I turned those blood oranges into this loaf, with poppy seeds I spotted in the bulk aisle of my grocery store. I had never baked with either before, but citrus + poppy seeds has long been one of my favorite pairings, and I decided to go for it. The loaf turned out beautifully– butter, sugar, eggs, yogurt, blood orange, poppy seeds, and yes, just a hint of vanilla.

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My favorite way to add citrus zest to baked goods

citrus zest

I love lemons. And limes, and grapefruits, and oranges. There’s no citrus fruit that I don’t love. The irresistibly bright scent just gets to me. Especially in the middle of winter, when all of the food is too heavy, too dark, too much. I like to add citrus zest and juice to baked goods, to add a little interest and a lot of flavor. Meyer lemon zest in cookies. Orange zest in chocolate tarts. Grapefruit zest in browned butter cookies, a completely unexpected pairing but totally awesome. Today, I thought I’d share my favorite way to add citrus to baked goods— complete with photographs!

I like to rub my citrus zest into granulated sugar, a tip I picked up from Joy the Baker. This method releases every last bit of essential oil from the zest into the sugar, so you can have a totally flavor-packed cake or cookie or brownie.

microplane grater

I’ll be working with blood oranges, but you can do this with any citrus you like.

To zest your citrus, begin by cleaning and drying it thoroughly. Any variety of citrus will do, but try to buy organic— you’re going to be eating the zest, and that’s often where the most pesticide residue ends up.

Grab a grater or zester. I use this microplane grater, which is pure magic. It’s sharp, it’s precise, and it lets me zest citrus without getting into the bitter pith. I highly recommend buying one of these, but if you have a regular grater, that will also do!

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