the thin chef

…And we’re back!

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Well, that little hiatus from blogging lasted a whole lot longer than I expected it to. I’m still amazed at how quickly a year passes…and how much can happen in the span of 12 months. Like, say, creating a new baby from scratch :)

I’d like you to meet Hazel Glo, the very best thing I’ve ever “made.” She’s been taking up quite a bit of my time, but I really do want to start blogging again. It will motivate me to get creative in the kitchen again, and have fodder to share right here.

So check back soon. And in the meantime, feast your eyes on this precious girl of mine.

Posted by on July 12th, 2012 2 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Down on the Farm

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I know, I’ve been absent again. I’ll be back soon, I promise. Did I mention I’m writing a Florida farm-to-table cookbook? (Along with two more smart, fabulous ladies.) It’s crazy-train time over here as we approach our deadline.

So. More soon, I promise…until then, go find yourself some locally grown strawberries, will ya?

Posted by on April 27th, 2011 1 Comment Print This Post Print This Post

True Grit

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We love a good brinner (breakfast for dinner) in this house. But it’s not always the most balanced meal to have at the end of the day. I can’t think of many veggies outside of hash browns (and even that’s a stretch) that are typically considered breakfast food.

My solution? Take morning meal staples and add something green to make it healthy. Parmesan polenta is the Italian answer to cheese grits, and it makes a perfect base for vegetables of all kinds. Braised collards are a favorite, but roasted broccoli or sautéed spinach are also perfect toppers that can be swirled into the creamy polenta. Add over-easy fried eggs (or poached, if you’re counting calories) for protein, letting the golden yolks form a rich sauce over the whole bowl. It’s simple, satisfying and something a little different for a midweek dinner.

P.S. If you’re pregnant, or if your immune system is compromised, you should cook your egg yolks completely. And I demand strongly encourage you buy organic/antibiotic-free eggs from local farms, especially if you prefer your yolks runny like I do.

Parmesan Polenta with Braised Greens and Eggs
Serves 4
Look for instant polenta on the pasta aisle, or near the cornmeal and grits.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch collard greens, leaves stripped from tough inner ribs and thinly sliced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk (2% or whole is best)
1 cup instant polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
8 eggs
Hot sauce, for serving

  1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan with a lid over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes more. Add collards, and cook until they turn bright green. Add 1 cup chicken broth and the water. Cover pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring remaining 2 cups chicken broth and milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly whisk in polenta. Lower heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and butter. Add coarse salt and black pepper to taste. Cover, and set aside.
  3. Fry eggs 2 at a time in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Divide polenta among 4 shallow bowls. Top with braised greens, and then top each serving with 2 eggs. Serve with additional Parmesan and plenty of hot sauce.

Posted by on March 23rd, 2011 6 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

A Late-Winter (or Early-Spring) Tart

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I’ve always thought that citrus is nature’s way of giving us hope that sunnier, warmer days are right around the corner. Think about it: these tart-sweet, refreshing, bright fruits are like sunshine in a bite. And the height of their season is the coldest part of the year. Although it’s been in the high 70s and low 80s here in Florida, I’ve heard it’s been a frosty last few weeks of winter in the rest of the country. Citrus to the rescue! I’ve already told you how I was lucky enough to grow up with oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, and kumquats in my backyard (literally). I love citrus, so when Food52 announced this contest, I knew what I was going to make. (Unfortunately, due to user error I’m sure, my tart didn’t make it into the entries. My computer froze, I never went back, and realized it a day too late. Nerds.)

But I’m still glad I made this tart. It’s a little time consuming, but the steps are simple. And it’s worth it to bite into the creamy, dreamy center and taste the sunny orange slices and rich chocolate crust. The filling reminded me of a dreamsicle, all creamy and smooth and just orangey enough to be fresh. The chocolate-crumb crust is made even richer with a layer of dark chocolate ganache, an addition that gives the tart a lovely, silky texture. Even though it didn’t make it into the contest, Jason and I loved it, and I hope you will, too.

Creamsicle Tart with Chocolate Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart

If you have unsalted sliced almonds, just add a bit of salt to the crust. It shouldn’t taste salty, but you should know the salt is there.

Crust
8 chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup (heaping) salted sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted

Creamsicle custard filling
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup whole milk
Zest of 2 large oranges
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Orange topping
4 large oranges, peel and white pith removed, cut into segments and patted dry with paper towels

For the crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine graham crackers and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely ground.
  3. Place crumbs in a bowl and add sugar and butter, stirring with a fork to combine. Pour mixture into a 9-inch tart pan with removable sides. Push crumbs into bottom and up sides of pan, making sure the crust is even.
  4. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

For the creamsicle custard filling

  1. Combine cream, milk and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine.
  2. Bring cream mixture just to a simmer, then remove from heat. Set aside to steep for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
  4. Add steeped cream to the egg yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.

For the chocolate ganache

  1. Heat cream in a small saucepan or in the microwave until hot.
  2. Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour cream over chocolate, and stir until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth.

Assemble tart

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Pour about 3/4 of the chocolate ganache into the bottom of the crust, and gently spread to edges.
  3. Pour custard filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout.
  4. Place crust (in pan) on a baking sheet, and place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven.
  5. Carefully pour custard filling into crust over ganache. Fill almost to the top of crust.
  6. Bake tart until filling is mostly set but still wobbles slightly in the center, about 30 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then gently remove ring, and cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate tart until set, at least 3 hours.
  8. Top with orange segments.

Posted by on March 15th, 2011 4 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

My Current Crushes

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Well hello there. Haven’t heard from me in awhile, huh? I’m back to share some of the things that are currently in heavy rotation in this house. I often get emails and texts from friends asking for advice on what wine or brand of cereal or frozen pie crust I like, so here are a few of the mainstream grocery items that make me happy every time… (and p.s. no one is paying me or perking me to give these shout-outs.)

Fage 2% plain Greek yogurt I used to roll my eyes at the people who spent extra money buying Greek yogurt when I would buy the cheaper regular yogurt and strain at home. Then I tasted Fage, and I am a convert. It’s not the same as straining yogurt at home. Even though this is low in calories and fat, it’s extremely thick and creamy tasting. Honestly, it tastes like full-fat, which would be my choice if I wasn’t concerned about all that artery-clogging cream. Oh, and the 0% isn’t as good. I’ve tried it and, trust me, it’s far less tasty.

Pure maple syrup (NOT pancake syrup!) If I could teach the world to sing, it would be a song about getting rid of fake pancake syrup from our kitchens. I choose few things to be a food snob about, and this is one of them. Now, clearly, since I grew up in Florida, I wouldn’t really know the difference between maple syrups, so I just make sure it’s 100% pure and grade A dark amber. I love it on top of the aforementioned Greek yogurt. It’s an obsession. If you usually put sugar in your coffee, try maple syrup—a trick my mom taught me. Just a teaspoon or so…it’s sweeter than sugar (to me) so I use less. It’s a natural food and it’s not refined…so I feel like it’s a better choice.

Wild Planet Tuna Big lunch salads are a common occurrence at Chez Farmand, and for added protein, our canned fish of choice is this tuna. Besides the fact that it’s sustainably caught and low in mercury,it’s really delicious. Meaty, never grainy or mealy, and not as dry as other brands. We get it at Whole Foods and it is not cheap, but it’s worth it.

Dansk Farms Raw Orange Blossom Honey Do yourself a big favor and get some of this immediately. You know how I said I wouldn’t know the difference between maple syrups? Well, I can absolutely tell the difference between honeys after tasting this one. Dansk is my favorite. It’s so pure-tasting, not saccharine or cloying and just plain good. I find myself thinking of ways to use it…a touch in salad dressings, drizzled on toast, in my tea, on a frozen banana, in smoothies…the list goes on.

Gia Russa Tomato & Basil pasta sauce Yes, this sauce costs twice what Prego or Ragu does. But it’s also much, much better! As far as I can see, this is one of only 2 or 3 brands on Publix or Target shelves that doesn’t have sugar in the ingredients list. It’s light, but has a really nice body to it. Their vodka sauce is also fabulous, but contains a whole lotta cream, so it’s not something I like to have on hand. Because I’ll eat it. All of it.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay and Cupcake Chardonnay No, I am not a wine connoisseur, and perhaps these are not the most high-end choices. But I love these wines. I never used to be much of a white wine drinker, but lately, buttery, oaky chardonnay is my drink of choice. It might even be edging out Champagne (just don’t tell Mme. Cliquot). Both are less than $10, and both are fab on their own and with food. p.s. I’ve heard Cupcake red wine isn’t stellar. Haven’t tried it, but just so you know.

Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage Patties Now, I love pork as much as the next gal. In fact, I probably love it more than she does. But it’s not the best for your heart (or your waistline). I picked these up on a whim because I had a coupon and I hadn’t tried anything more adventurous than veggie burgers. And I have to say, these are pretty awesome. They get super crispy in the oven, and each patty has 10 grams protein and only 80 calories and 1/2 gram saturated fat. But seriously, the best part is, they taste good. They taste like sausage. I swear!

C2O Coconut Water I have fully hopped on board the coconut water bandwagon. It’s like natural Gatorade—only better since it’s 100% natural. It’s loaded with potassium and other electrolytes you need to stay hydrated but it doesn’t have added sugars. After a long workout, it’s so perfect. After a night of too many glasses of Cupcake chardonnay, it’s so perfect. I think C2O is the best tasting, and it happens to be the least expensive at Whole Foods. I prefer the brands that come in cans instead of the little cardboard bottles, because I think those taste like cardboard.

So that’s what I’m loving right now. What are your favorite, go-to grocery items?

Posted by on February 16th, 2011 9 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

Totally Rad

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Last week when I went to Homegrown Co-Op to pick up our weekly order, I gasped out loud when they plopped a bunch of rosy-pink hydroponically grown watermelon radishes in my bag. They were stunning. I can’t possibly be the only one who can become totally enamored with the sight of a beautiful veggie, can I?

To me, the best way to enjoy these gorgeous, crunchy, spicy roots is with a sprinkling of salt, and maybe some good, cold butter if you have it on hand. In fact, one of my first-ever blog posts was about this very combination.

If you are fortunate enough to have a local-food grocery in your area, please, please, please support it! Whether it’s a system of weekly CSA boxes or a grocery co-op or even a local-only farmers’ market, try to look there first to source the ingredients you need for the week. I won’t lie, the food can be more expensive. But we are committed to eating as locally and as organically as possible, not just for our health and environment, but because it tastes so much darn better. So we make room in our budget. From my experience, the produce is absolutely not more expensive than Whole Foods and usually not more expensive than the organic produce at Publix (and the bulk of it comes from California). The real value, though, is in the freshness of the food, which comes straight from the farms just a few miles away. So the extra few dollars (and it really is only a few) are 100% worth it.

I hope you’ll agree, and make an effort to shop from your local suppliers. Not just for veggies and fruits, but also for eggs, bread, milk, yogurt & cheese, poultry, beef and fish—all of which are readily available to Central Floridians, and I imagine are available in many other communities, too. Orlando-area readers, here are my favorite sources: Homegrown Co-Op /  Audubon Park Community Market

Other parts of the country, use this search to find one near you. (Just type in your zipcode under the map.)

Posted by on January 18th, 2011 3 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

Taste of Disney

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I have something to admit. My name is Katie Farmand, and I am a child of Disney. I grew up a half hour away from Walt Disney World, and for seven years of my childhood, my mom worked there full time as a publicist. I visited the parks often, was in countless promotional photo shoots (I was in a Magic Kingdom brochure for, like, 8 years) and—due to the perks of my mom’s job—I even got to meet a few celebrities (including 90s heartthrobs Joey Lawrence and Jonathan from the New Kids on the Block…be still my 9-year-old heart!)

Even though my youth was quite saturated with Disney, I still love it. Call me a nerd, I don’t care. It’s still one of my favorite places. But as I’ve grown up, so has Disney. To me, the most impressive “other” side of Disney is its food. Not only its handful of signature restaurants, which are truly on par with some of the finest restaurants anywhere, but also the annual Food & Wine Festival and its other unique and fun food experiences.

A few months ago, my mom (who still works as a consultant for the company) and I filmed a series of webisodes for Disney.com about some of these food experiences at Walt Disney World. I am a complete novice at being in front of a camera, so I know you’ll keep that in mind as you watch. But it was an enjoyable venture for us, mostly because my mom and I both believe the people in the food world at Disney are incredibly talented, and we want to help bring the spotlight to them.

So, if you have a moment, take a look…and let me know what you think. I still blush when I watch myself, but the crew we worked with made these videos look really great—I hope you’ll agree.

Posted by on January 14th, 2011 9 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

Wordless Wednesday: Spicy Bazaar

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Posted by on January 13th, 2011 1 Comment Print This Post Print This Post

Halfway Across the World

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In late December, Jason and I were fortunate enough to travel to Palestine and Israel. We stayed in a small city called Ramallah in the West Bank—the city where Jason’s parents were born and raised, and where a branch of his extended family still lives.

Absolutely delicious dinner

I have always believed that food is the common denominator that brings people together and that it is the perfect way to truly get to know know a culture. Culture differences are all but forgotten when sharing a meal. It was not always the easiest journey being fully accepted into Jason’s close-knit Palestinian family. But I knew from the first time his mother’s face lit up when I tasted—and loved—her lovingly made stuffed squash that food would help us overcome relationship hurdles. Food was the first way I bonded with Jason’s mom. It was the topic of the first real, engaging conversation I had with his dad.

New Year's Day lunch with the best mezze we had all week

And food was, indeed, the way we bonded with our extended family halfway across the world. It was also, for us, a way to bond with the culture itself. Tasting things that are everyday foods—falafel, hummus, ka’ak (sesame bread), pickles, yogurt—infused at least a small understanding of the way of life there.

The tastiest falafel sandwich I've ever had...I had one both times we went to Jerusalem

We ate some dishes that were familiar to us, such as hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant dip), msakkhan, mini eggplants stuffed with hashweh (a mixture of rice, minced lamb and pine nuts or almonds), malfouf (cabbage rolls, again, stuffed with hashweh), knafeh (melted white cheese and shredded phyllo dough, soaked in sugar syrup) and simple roast chicken. And even though we’d had these dishes before, something about them was different there, and it was really exciting to taste.

Arabic ice cream, locally brewed beer and breakfast (but not eaten all together!)

But we also had plenty of things we’d either never had, or only tried once or twice before, like a dessert made from a sheet of hand-rolled phyllo folded over cheese or nuts and baked; arabic ice cream, which has gum paste in it, giving it a gooey, sticky texture (jury’s still out on whether that’s a good thing!); maftoul (hand-rolled couscous in rich stock and topped with lamb and chick peas); and a dish of blended hummus and bread.

Pastry in Jerusalem—hand-rolled phyllo filled with cheese and baked

We, of course, did more than eat on this trip…although the eating was among the most enjoyable parts. The ancient cities in Israel and Palestine are awe-inspiring and beautiful. And though many see that part of the world as contentious, we found it to be quite peaceful, engaging and hospitable.

Maftoul

Malfouf

I will certainly be exploring more Arabic, and specifically Palestinian, cuisine here going forward. One of my favorite Christmas gifts came from Jason’s parents—a cookbook called Sahtein, which was created by the American Ramallah Federation. It includes wonderful recipes that I now feel ever-so-slightly more equipped to attempt, having tasted many of the dishes on our trip.

Aunties hard at work on our lunch

In the meantime, I think I’ll go to the nearby Arabic grocery to grab a falafel sandwich. I miss them already.

Posted by on January 12th, 2011 6 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

Merry Christmas!

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(my newest favorite ornament that reminds me of our honeymoon, a gift from sweet Lindsey)

Here’s to a new year filled with delicious, laughter-filled, wine-soaked, decadent, comforting, healthful, fresh, locally sourced meals shared with friends around the table.

This space will be quiet (again) for the next two weeks or so as my husband and I travel to the West Bank to do some exploring and to visit his extended family. You know I’ll have my camera in hand to capture the wonderful food we eat, beautiful people we meet, and historic sites we visit. Stay tuned…

Posted by on December 24th, 2010 No Comments Print This Post Print This Post