condiments

building community + a spicy, creamy avocado dip

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A few days before our trip to Portugal, Beau and I were neck deep in prepping the house for our AirBnB guests, packing and wrapping up work projects. I had slept for approximately three hours the night before and a massive headache was boring its way through my skull. I was in no mood to have guests over.

But the week before, in a moment of “brilliance”, Beau and I had decided that we needed to host a community-building meetup of fellow entrepreneurs and creatives.

So after prepping assorted crudités and a charcuterie plate and a trio of colorful dips, I was slumped on the couch dreading the small talk I would soon be making with a house full of COMPLETE STRANGERS.

(I’ll pause here for a moment to tell you that I am a serious introvert and as such I would pretty much rather have acid thrown in my face than make small talk with strangers—which is what small talk feels like for most introverts anyway. If you want to talk about big ideas or deep emotions or your burning passion for early 17th century postage stamps, I’m game. If you ask me about the weather, I will smile awkwardly and make strange noises and sort of side-scramble away.)

Sooooo, at 5:00 I was sitting on the couch cursing myself for organizing this meet-up and secretly hoping the house would burn down before our guests arrived.

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At 6:15 the doorbell started ringing and one by one, our guests trickled in:

A woman who came all the way from Vancouver, Canada to get feedback and support on her growing food tourism business. A work-from-home mom and illustrator who wants to grow her business now that her daughter is in school. A woman looking to lead a more creative, less perfection-driven life after beating a cancer diagnosis.

And so many others.

We discussed how hard it is to be the CEO, creative director, staff photographer, marketing team and admin all rolled into one when you’re running your own company.

We talked about how isolating and overwhelming it can feel when you’re home alone in front of a blank computer screen trying to bring your vision to life. How tempting it is to answer the very important 3,479 emails in your inbox. Or redo your instagram feed so it forms a perfect patchwork and spells your name backwards if you squint your eyes just right. Instead of filling your creative cup.

We commiserated over the way fear and perfectionism can leave you paralyzed—afraid to create the podcast, take the class, make the prototype or raise your rates.

Everyone shared with incredible honesty and vulnerability. It was about a gazillion times better than I’d imagined. Having the meetup was like getting plugged into a 1000 watt battery. I was high on sisterhood and full of fresh ideas for days afterwards.

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Which got me thinking about how much solopreneurs, small business owners, artists and freelancers miss out on the energy and connection that comes from working in a team.

It’s true we don’t have unreasonable bosses looming over our desks telling us to get it done yesterday. We can hole up on the couch with a bag of chips at 2pm on a Tuesday to watch reruns of The Office if we feel like it. No one is giving us any shit about logging our vacation days.

But we lose the feedback and encouragement of co-workers. There’s no swapping stories around the water cooler. No high-fives and after-work beers to celebrate the completion of a big project. No office kickball league.

And that connection matters.

We all need community. But our perfectionist tendencies sometimes make it hard for us to have it. We need the “perfect” reason to host a meetup or have someone over, the “perfectly” instagrammable dinner party. But I’m here to say fuck that noise. And to encourage you to host an imperfect gathering, here’s a dip you can whip up in 10 minutes flat with ingredients you probably have rolling around in your fridge right now. So you can invite someone over—your neighbor, your new friend, that barista you have a crush on—and have a moment of connecting.

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In that spirit, Beau and I have decided to do a lot more events that bring people together: Meetups for entrepreneurs and creatives looking for their people. Community-building pop-up dinners. Photography workshops focusing not only on technique, but also on how to grow your creative voice. International retreats designed around slow travel, connection and personal growth.

Because as much as I was dreading this meetup in the hours before our guests arrived, it turned out to be brilliant after all. It’s the spark that has me energized to create new experiences and grow our community. The energy that filled my creative cup to overflowing.

Which is what I want for you.

If you are a member of the solitary work-from-home posse, if you spend your days glued to your laptop in a coffee shop or alone with your art in a studio, or if you are just looking for experiences designed to help you lead a more connected and creative life, we have lots of good things coming your way.

Starting with a pop-up dinner in Lisbon in May and a photography workshop in Seattle in July! Details and registration are coming soon. In the meantime, join our First to Know List and get early access to all our events.

I can’t wait to see you there!


Spicy, Creamy, Easy-Peasy Avocado Dip

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/4 jalapeño with seeds, sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish (optional)
  • Black sesame seeds or toasted pepitas, to garnish (optional)

*Notes: If you want a less spicy dip, you can deseed the jalapeño or leave it out altogether.

- This dip keeps well for 3-4 days, tightly covered and refrigerated. But I think the flavor is best on the first day.

- This makes a great salad dressing or sauce for tacos, chicken or fish. Just thin it with a bit more water or cream to your desired consistency.

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Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until the dip is completely smooth.. You might need to add a little more water to get the mixture going, depending on the strength of your blender. 

Taste. Add more salt, lime, or jalapeño if you want. Blend until uniform.

To serve, transfer the dip to a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops in the dip. Pour a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the dip and top with seeds and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt if you like.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups dip.

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto, pears and celery root

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

Hello from Paris!

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas. I was a bit under the weather/jet-lagged, so Beau and I had a pretty mellow holiday: a walk over to Notre Dame to hear the Christmas bells toll, a leisurely stroll through the Luxembourg gardens with a stop for coffee at the Café de Flore. A seafood extravaganza for two and early to bed. We didn’t even pop the bottle of champagne we bought!

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com
Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

But I’m planning to make up for our rather subdued Christmas celebration in a few days. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better place to ring in the new year than the city of light. Beau and I have a table booked at one of our favorite restaurants. There will be oysters. There will be champagne. There will be all manner of other deliciousness and then there will be heading out into the chill to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle over the city. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com
salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

But before all that, let’s talk about your New Year’s Eve dinner. 

If I were home, I’d be fixing this Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root. My friend Kyle and I served this at the pop-up dinner we hosted earlier this month. This beauty is Kyle’s invention. How he comes up with such creative dishes, I have no idea. Also, it takes him about two seconds to whip up an entire menu. Without cracking a cookbook. While I am jealous, I am also thrilled to be the beneficiary of his chef-brain. And even more thrilled that I got to eat this dish three times in one month: once while we were testing it, once at the dinner and again when I shot it for the blog with my friend Carrie

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

This roast sits at the intersection of easy and impressive. Exactly what you want on a holiday where you should be sipping champagne with your guests instead of sweating away in the kitchen. The salt crust seasons the meat while sealing in all the delicious juices. The roasted pears and celery root are a meltingly soft, subtly sweet base for the beef--far sexier than mashed potatoes. And the bright, herby pesto makes it all sing. Plus, how often do you get to smash open your meal with a hammer? Very exciting stuff.

However you decide to ring in 2017, I hope it brings you joy. Thank you for following along here and for all your kind comments and emails over the past year. You make this adventure I’m on so much more fun! 

With much love,

Olaiya


Salt-Roasted Beef with Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto, Pears and Celery Root

  • 2-3 lb boneless cross-rib roast (also known as a flat iron roast)
  • 6 cups kosher salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup cold water
  • Freshly-grated black pepper
  • 1 recipe Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto (below)
  • 1 recipe Roasted Pears and Celery Root (below)

Lemon-Hazelnut Pesto

  • ½ cup hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup mint, gently packed
  • ¼ cup parsley, gently packed
  • ¼ cup cilantro, gently packed
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • ¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 large)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup hazelnut or olive oil

 

Pears and Celery Root

  • 2 slightly underripe pears
  • 1 large celery root
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

 

*Notes: My wonderful neighborhood butcher turned me onto the boneless cross-rib (or flat iron) roast called for in this recipe. I love this cut because it’s flavorful and a great value when you’re feeding a crowd. It does have more connective tissue and marbling in it than some other cuts (sort of like a prime rib roast). If that’s not your thing, you might want to consider a different cut of beef. They’re considerably more expensive, but a tenderloin roast or strip roast never disappoint. 

- If you roast or grill a larger cut of meat even once a year, I recommend you purchase a corded meat thermometer like this one. You stick the probe in the middle of your roast, while the display sits on the countertop by your oven. Set the desired temperature and it will beep when your meat is ready. No opening the oven door and letting out the precious heat. No guessing as to when your roast will be the exact doneness you like. A corded thermometer will take your roast game to a whole new level. 

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

Remove the beef from the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it so it can warm up slightly.

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a rimmed sheet pan and toast until the nuts turn golden-brown and fragrant, 8-12 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. When cool, roughly chop the nuts or crush them with the side of a chef’s knife or with a mortar and pestle (no need to peel). Place the nuts in a medium bowl. Roughly chop the herbs and add them to the bowl. Cut the preserved lemon into quarters and scoop out the flesh and toss or reserve for another use. Finely dice the peel and add it to the bowl. Add the minced shallot, lemon zest and juice, salt and olive oil and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Set aside to let the flavors come together.

To prepare the beef, mix the salt, egg whites and water in a large bowl until the salt is evenly moistened. Place a thin layer of the salt mixture just wider than your beef roast on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the beef on top of this layer and generously sprinkle with black pepper. Use the rest of the salt mixture to cover the roast, pressing to seal the beef in. Place in the oven and roast to desired doneness: 120°F for rare, 125°F for medium rare, 130°F for medium. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest, without breaking open the salt crust. (Don't worry if the crust has a few cracks in it when it comes out of the oven; that's fine.) Rest the beef for at least 15 minutes before you crack open the crust and slice it. 

While the beef is roasting, prepare the pears and celery root. Remove the skin and any roots from the celery root and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Core the pears and slice into ⅓-inch thick pieces. Place the pears and celery root on a parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and  toss with olive oil to coat. When the roast is about 10 degrees under the desired doneness, place the pears and celery root in the oven. When you remove the beef, increase the oven temperature to 475°F and roast until the pears and celery root are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, 30-35 minutes. 

When the pears and celery root are done, crack open the salt crust on the beef using a rolling pin, meat mallet or hammer. Brush the salt off the beef and slice. Transfer the roasted pears and celery root and the beef to a serving platter. Spoon some of the pesto over the beef and serve immediately, passing the rest of the pesto alongside. 

Makes 6-8 servings.

Recipe by Kyle Wisner

salt-roasted beef with lemon-hazelnut pesto on millys-kitchen.com

moroccan vegetable tagine + ras el hanout yogurt

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

People often ask me what we eat at home. They imagine, I think, each of our meals must be an imaginative affair involving hours spent in the kitchen and crowned with an elaborate dessert. 

This is not even close to the truth.

I used to feel guilty about this. I have food-industry friends who have the magic ability to turn a pile of disparate ingredients into a restaurant-worthy meal. These particular friends (a ridiculously stylish and affable couple to boot) seem impervious to the siren song of a bowl of breakfast cereal for dinner.

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

I used to think settling for anything less than a beautiful home-cooked repast was a small failure. My inner perfectionist looked on scornfully as I scarfed cold pizza for breakfast or cobbled a pile of wacky leftovers into a “meal”.

Then one day last year, I stepped back and looked at this pile of crazy thinking. “Seriously?”, I asked myself. “We both know that may be possible for some people, but it certainly isn’t for you, my dear.” There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to craft an elaborate meal each evening. So I let it go.

It helped that I’d recently returned from a trip to Brussels and Paris where I’d seen friends throw together delicious, seasonal meals on the fly. Steamed artichokes dipped in garlic yogurt with a bottle of white wine. Scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast. A few slices of ham and a wedge of cheese with a handful of radishes from the garden. I decided these sur le pouce meals were just what I wanted my weeknight suppers to be. Simple. Straightforward. Delicious. 

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

After a little experimenting, I've found my groove. Scrambled eggs are my new best friend. A plate of charcuterie and cheese comes together in 5 minutes. A jar of mustardy vinaigrette shaken together on a Sunday night makes salads a cinch all week long. And--another trick I learned from the French--a glass of good wine elevates even the humblest fare.

For those of you who feel pressure to produce a culinary masterpiece seven nights a week, I suggest you give the on-the-fly method of weeknight dining a go. If you need a little nudge, I have two in-a-flash recipes for you from my friend Mehdi.

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com
ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

 

In addition to being a charming human being, Mehdi is also an amazing cook. Oh, and he knows a ton about Moroccan food, too. His company, Villa Jerada, started off as a venture to import his neighbor’s olive oil from Morocco to the U.S. It has grown to include high quality Moroccan oils, spices and artisan-made goods. When Mehdi stopped by a couple weeks ago to drop off some olive oil and a tin of his wildly fragrant saffron, he offered to show me some new ways to work Moroccan ingredients and techniques into quick weeknight meals. (Score!)

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

His vegetable tagine takes about 15 minutes to prep and turns out fragrant and silky with olive oil. His three-ingredient Moroccan-spiced yogurt is the essence of simplicity. (And super addictive. You’ve been warned). Accompanied by a plate of crunchy vegetables and a soft-boiled egg or two, these recipes make a perfect on-the-fly summer meal. 

Don’t forget the wine.


Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 large tomato, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1-2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick
  • 1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
  • About 1 ½ cups water
  • 3-4 tablespoons best quality olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons harissa
  • 1 teaspoon kefta rub
  • 15 saffron threads
  • Sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • About 8 small sprigs cilantro, plus additional to garnish

*Notes: I can’t recommend the whole line of Villa Jerada spices, rubs and olive oils highly enough! I’ve been cooking Moroccan food for over a decade and these are the best ingredients I’ve ever worked with. In this dish, I used Mehdi’s Dessert Miracle olive oil along with Villa Jerada harissa, kefta rub and saffron. See below for Seattle stockists and online resources.

- If you can’t find Anaheim peppers or if you want a milder or spicier option, feel free to substitute another pepper. I think this would be nice with either very thin slices of jalapeño or serrano (to mitigate the heat) or ¼-inch slices of red bell pepper.

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

Scatter the onions over the bottom of a large sauté pan or tagine and salt lightly. Tile the sliced potatoes over the onions. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, peppers and garlic over the potatoes. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan. The precise amount will vary slightly based on the size of your pan, but you want enough to form a thin layer over the bottom of the pan, just covering the onions. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables. (Don’t skimp on the olive oil, it’s part of what makes the potatoes silky and soft when they’re done cooking.) Dot the harissa over the vegetables. Season generously with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle with the kefta rub and saffron then arrange the cilantro sprigs over the top.

Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium heat then cover and cook until most of the water has evaporated, the potatoes are cooked through and the tomatoes are starting to fall apart, about 20 minutes. You may need to reduce the heat a little. If there’s still a little water in the bottom of the pan when the vegetables are done, remove the lid and cook off the excess.

Sprinkle with additional cilantro to garnish, if desired, and serve in the pan.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Recipe by Mehdi Boujrada


ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

Ras El Hanout Yogurt

  • 1 ½ cups full-fat greek yogurt or labneh
  • 2 teaspoons Villa Jerada ras el hanout spice blend
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Best quality extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • Raw sliced vegetables, to serve

*Note: I love all the Villa Jerada products but the ras el hanout spice blend is especially fantastic. It's much more delicate and floral than any other version of the spice blend I've tried. It works perfectly with the honey in this dip. 

Whisk the yogurt, ras el hanout and honey together in a medium bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with vegetables and topped with best quality olive oil. (I used Les Terroirs de Marrakech extra-virgin olive oil.)

Recipe by Mehdi Boujrada


Where to by Villa Jerada products in Seattle:

 

Where to buy Villa Jerada products elsewhere and online:

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com