easy

posole verde

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen

I am not really a believer in New Year’s resolutions. They always seem to putter out somewhere around March. I prefer to secret away an afternoon in the quiet, darkening days of January to imagine what I want from the year. I prefer to head out into the new year with a roadmap and an intention. Though I don’t always end up at my original destination, things always seem to fall into place somehow.

This year, I find myself thinking about how to clear away the extraneous, the white noise. Too much television. Worrying about what other people think. Falling down the Internet’s many rabbit holes. Sweeping away the distractions helps reveal the essential. Family. Friendship. Creativity. Beauty. Nature. Those things that sustain me.

The idea of sustenance has been on my mind a lot lately. Busy-ness has a way of taking over, like a creeping vine, if you forget to prune it back. So as I plan out each week, I schedule in time to write and take photos and go for walks, activities that sustain my spirit and keep the busy-ness in check. 

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen

In the kitchen too, I’ve been thinking about sustenance. As someone who earns her livelihood through food, it’s not always easy to navigate the territory between flavor and health. I learned to cook in restaurant kitchens, where butter and cream and sugar and salt are the go-to shortcuts to flavor. And let’s be honest--butter, cream, sugar and salt are glorious in the kitchen, adding roundness and coaxing forth layers of deliciousness from other, more subtle, ingredients. I am most certainly not among those who vilify fat or carbohydrates or any food at all for that matter. 

But I do know that too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. I just returned from a trip to San Francisco with my mother. We did all the fun, mother-daughter things one should do on a trip to San Francisco. We rode a ferry to Alcatraz Island and snapped pictures of the Bay Bridge and the city skyline with the sun glinting off the water. We explored Golden Gate Park and spent an afternoon entranced by the underwater dreamscape at the California Academy of Sciences aquarium. We wandered the streets of the city and stumbled upon lovely handmade jewelry and gorgeous earth-toned ceramics and a hidden trove of vintage kitchen wares.

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen
Underwater Dreamscape // Milly's Kitchen
Bay Bridge // Milly's Kitchen

And we ate.

We waited in the ever-present line at Tartine for flaky croissants and light-as-air meringues. We ate tacos from a bodega in the Mission. We had some of the best pasta I’ve ever had--housemade ditalini with dungeness crab and uni butter--at Locanda. We brunched on lentil fritters with a silky beet sauce, kefir and cilantro oil at Bar Tartine. At Range, my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area, I had crisp-skinned roasted chicken with a bread salad of chicory, dates, bacon and fresh herbs. We finished the trip at 20th Century Cafe (a gem of a place) with golden pierogi served with damson plum preserves, lighter-than-air apple strudel and a slice of Russian honey cake. Each meal was a treasure.

20th Century Cafe Russian Honey Cake // Milly's Kitchen


I wouldn’t change a thing about our trip. But when I got home, I was decidedly done with buttery pastries and creamy sauces. I craved fresher, lighter meals. Greens and whole grains and brothy soups. The sort of food that leaves you ready to dive into your day rather than in a food coma and in need of a nap. 

This posole verde is one of the recipes I turn to at times like this. I first made this soup last summer with tomatillos from the farmers market. But I was craving it this winter and discovered that it works beautifully with canned tomatillos as well. 

In addition to the tart tomatillos, this posole has earthy hominy to give it body and texture. There are jalapeños to liven things up and cooling cilantro to balance the kick of the chiles. The chicken makes this soup a filling meal, but pintos or black beans would work just as well if you prefer to keep it vegetarian. And of course, you can’t leave off the toppings. For me, posole is all about the bright, crunchy toppings added to each bowl just before serving.

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen

This posole brings a little summer warmth to January days and is just the kind of sustenance I’m looking for as I head towards spring with a roadmap for a fresh, new year in hand. 

 

P.S. I'm always looking for inspiration, so I'd love to hear about your go-to fresh, healthy meals in the comments below! 


I’m generally not a champion of the boneless, skinless chicken breast. Mostly because it isn’t as flavorful as other cuts of chicken and it’s more difficult to cook properly. But I like the delicate chicken flavor it brings to this light, fresh soup. The handling of the chicken is a bit fussier here due to the fact that breast meat is leaner and will get dry and tough it is not cooked gently. Feel free to substitute skinless chicken thighs, pork loin or tenderloin or even braised pork shoulder in place of the chicken breasts if you prefer.

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen

Posole Verde (Tomatillo, Hominy and Chicken Soup)

  • 1 recipe garnishes (see below)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb fresh tomatillos, diced or 1 28-oz can tomatillos, drained
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeño (seeds optional), quartered
  • Packed ⅓ cup cilantro (some stems are fine)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade), divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups cooked hominy (you can cook your own or use 1 28-oz. can)
  • 2 large skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ¾ lbs)

Garnishes

  • 1 large avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
  • 8-10 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups very finely shredded red or green cabbage
  • ½ cup crema, sour cream or cotija cheese

Heat 1 cup of the stock in a medium saucepan. If you are using fresh tomatillos, add them to the pot along with the onion. If not, add only the onion. Simmer until the onion is tender, about 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree the onion and tomatillo (along with the cooking liquid), garlic, jalapeño and cilantro in a blender. Take care not to fill the blender more than ⅔ full so the hot mixture won’t force the lid off when you turn the blender on. That is not fun.

Transfer the pureed tomatillo mixture to a heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the rest of the stock, bay leaf, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and the hominy. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the chicken. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is just cooked through, 15-20 minutes. You can check to see if the chicken is done by removing it and cutting into it with a paring knife. Take care not to overcook it as it gets dry and stringy. You want it to be completely opaque, without any traces of pink but still juicy. Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside to cool. Continue to cook the soup at a bare simmer for another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle but still warm, cut it into 1-inch cubes. Use your fingers to shred the cubed chicken.  Do not return the chicken to the pot. Cooking the chicken in the soup further will cause it to lose moisture and toughen.

Taste the posole and add more salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaf.  Ladle the hot soup into serving bowls. Spoon some of the shredded chicken into the center of each bowl. Serve very hot accompanied by garnishes.

*Note: If you don’t eat all of the posole, you can either cool the tomatillo-hominy base then add the shredded chicken and refrigerate, taking care not to overcook the chicken when you reheat the soup.  Or you can store the tomatillo-hominy base and the chicken separately in the refrigerator. When reheating the soup, stir the chicken in just before serving and take it off the heat as soon as the chicken is heated through.

Posole Verde // Milly's Kitchen

baked french toast with pears, hazelnuts and blackberry-cardamom syrup

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

I heard someone speaking the other day about the fear of catastrophe that follows intense joy. Like a streak of lightning after thunder. As though, gazing upon your sleeping babe, your soulmate, your safe and beautiful home, the happiness you feel is too great. So big it aches in your chest. Incomprehensible. And so you must conjure some horrible disaster in your mind to ward off the fear of what might be. A psychic sacrifice to the demons that poke and prick at us all. 

I'm all too familiar with that feeling. 

More often than I’d like to admit, I am afraid that the good things I have might be snatched away from me. Who am I to receive such gifts, experience such joy?, I think. To forestall the unthinkable, I tell myself: Don't get too comfortable. Be vigilant. Work harder. 

But to think like this is to not be fully alive. So for the past several years, I've been trying to let the negative and the dark hold less sway. To be in the here and now and to be wholeheartedly grateful for the many blessings I have.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

So as one year turns into another, I try to carve out a quiet moment to imagine fresh adventures. And to look back over my year at the many things I have to be grateful for.

This year, that list is huge. 

I got married to a kind and loving man who has made me laugh precisely every single day since we met. I have a husband who loves me as I am and helps me remember that nothing is ever as daunting as it seems with a friend at your side. For this, I am beyond grateful.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

My work is more inspiring and fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. When I left a business that I helped found and had poured my entire being into, to teach and write and lead culinary adventures, I was terrified. There were lots of days spent wanting to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head. What if everyone thought my plan was frivolous or stupid? Worse, what if no one showed up?

But you did show up. The tour I led to Paris last year was a lifechanger. Forming friendships with the women who came with me to Paris and watching them marvel in the city’s delights, was one of the high points of my year. For this I am grateful.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

As was connecting with all of you through this blog. In the beginning, I thought this space would be about posting recipes and sharing tips. Explanations of food science and proper technique. But when I sit down to write, this is what comes out. Thoughts on why cooking and gathering loved ones around the table is so essential. Things I hadn’t articulated clearly before. Even to myself. And the ability to catapult back in time. To summers past and trips to France. To the Thanksgivings of my childhood when my grandmother was still turning out huge trays of her oyster stuffing. And to snowy Christmases spent with good friends. For this, too, I am grateful.

And so, one of the things I am most thankful for this year is you. To all of you who came out to a cooking class, read my blog, shared with me on Instagram, and journeyed with me to Paris, I am so appreciative of all your support. 2014 was an amazing year for me, due in large part to the wonderful connections I made with all of you. So I’m sending you a huge thank you!

I've got a new recipe for you: Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup. It’s just the thing to get everyone around the table for a family breakfast or New Year’s Day brunch.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

You soak the bread the night before in a ginger-brown sugar custard. Simmer ripe pears in a luscious salted caramel sauce, stir in a handful of toasted hazelnuts, and you’re ready to go. Pop the whole thing in the oven in the morning and you have a simple, elegant breakfast that feeds a crowd. 

The recipe is below. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you share it with those you are most grateful for. 

Wishing you a Happy and Bright New Year!

- Olaiya 


Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts, and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup

  • 1 recipe syrup (see below)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided, plus additional for greasing the pan
  • 1 1-lb loaf of country white bread or challah, preferably a day or two old
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 1 packed cup brown sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 4 ripe pears

For syrup:

  • 1 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup maple syrup, preferably Grade B (which is darker and more delicious in my opinion)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Use a little of the butter to grease a large baking dish. Cut the bread into slices one inch thick. Cut the slices in half diagonally. Arrange the bread in the baking dish in two or three rows, overlapping the slices of bread as necessary to make them fit. Set aside.

Place ½ cup of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the vanilla seeds into the sugar to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs, milk, ginger and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Whisk well to combine.

Pour the custard evenly over the bread in the baking dish. Depending on the size of your dish, you may need to gently push the slices down into the custard with a spoon or flexible spatula so the bread can soak up as much custard as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours to allow the custard to soak into the bread. If you notice that there is custard pooling in the bottom of the baking dish, spoon some of the custard over the bread once or twice while it’s chilling. You can also place another roasting pan or pie dish on top of the soaking bread to gently push it down into the custard if your bread is on the sturdy side. The extent to which the custard is absorbed will depend on the type of bread you use and how dry it is.

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

When you are ready to cook the French toast, preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator. If there is still a bit of custard pooling at the bottom of the baking dish, tip out the excess. Set aside.

If you are using pre-roasted and skinned hazelnuts, roughly chop them and set aside. If you have raw hazelnuts, place them on a rimmed sheet pan and toast until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Remove the nuts from the pan so they don’t burn. Place them in the middle of a kitchen towel. Bring the four corners of the towel towards each other and twist them together until you have securely enclosed the nuts in the towel. Vigorously rub the hazelnuts together inside the towel for a minute or so. When you open the towel most of the skins should have fallen off. Roughly chop the toasted and skinned nuts and set aside. 

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

Peel and core the pears then slice them ⅛-inch thick. Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the remaining ½ cup brown sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the pears and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and the caramel starts to thicken, about 5 minutes. If your pears are quite ripe, it will take a little longer for the moisture to cook off and the caramel to thicken. Remove the pears from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Stir to coat the nuts in caramel. 

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

Spoon the pears and nuts over the prepared bread, tucking some of the caramelized pear in between the slices. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into small pieces and dot the top of the French toast with it. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the custard has set and the French toast is golden brown.

While the French toast is baking, make the syrup: Place the blackberries and syrup in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the berries are soft and starting to fall apart, about 5 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, pushing on the berries with a spoon or spatula to extract as much berry pulp as possible. Stir the salt and cardamom into the warm syrup.

Rest the French toast for 5-10 minutes before serving with warm Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup.

Makes 6-8 servings

Baked French Toast with Pears, Hazelnuts and Blackberry-Cardamom Syrup // Milly's Kitchen

apple-rosemary granola

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

We’re off to a slow start around here.

In the holiday preparedness department, that is. We don’t have a Christmas tree. We haven’t hung a festive wreath on our door. We have drunk zero mugs of peppermint hot chocolate with little marshmallows on top.  

It only just hit me today is December 9th and if I intend to do any wreath-making or tree-decorating or delicious-holiday-beverage-drinking, I had better get it in gear. So my mind has finally turned towards Christmas. This morning I tracked down my favorite holiday cookie recipe (lebkuchen!). Now I’m dreaming of filling the house with the smell of candied orange peel and cardamom. And I can’t wait to pick out just the right tree. After all these Christmases, I still experience a childlike delight each morning as I tiptoe in to sit quietly by the twinkling lights and breathe in the piney smell of the forest.

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

Alongside the sharing of meals, the making and giving of homemade gifts is the heart of the season for me. I’ve offered many over the years: rosemary shortbreads and coconut macaroons and spicy cheddar cheese straws and carrot-cardamom jam. One year, I thought my poor hands were going to be forever useless from piping sheet pan after sheet pan of peanut butter meringues. Another year, I nearly bankrupted myself making a mountain of pistachio-apricot bark with Valrhona dark chocolate and Theo cacao nibs.  

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

But I’ve learned my lesson. And with each passing holiday season I’ve grown a bit wiser in my holiday goodie-giving. So now, one of my go-to gifts is homemade granola. It’s simple to make. It stores and ships marvelously well. It’s inexpensive (at least compared to Valrhona dark chocolate bark!). And everyone loves good granola.

This year's flavor is apple-rosemary. I have yet to meet a homemade granola I didn’t like, but the subtle sweetness and savory notes in this version are especially pleasing to me. The sweet-tart apple brightens the earthy walnuts and the rosemary adds a slight herbaceous note. The warm spices make this granola perfect for the holidays.

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

There are infinite possibilities for improvising here: pear in place of the apple, sesame instead of flax, almonds in lieu of walnuts. I hope you’ll make this recipe your own. I also highly recommend baking up an extra batch so you have some for your own cupboard. It is delicious on top of creamy yogurt with a sliced pear or apple. If you’re feeling especially festive, swirl in a few spoonfuls of chestnut jam and elevate the whole affair to something brunch-worthy.

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

I hope you’ll join me and indulge fully in the holiday spirit. Hang a wreath. Drink some cocoa. Hell, splash a little bourbon in there--it’s the holidays! Bake up a jar of granola. And enjoy the beauty of the season.


Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen

Apple- Rosemary Granola

  • 1 recipe wet ingredients (see below)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup rye flakes (also known as rolled rye. If you can't find rye flakes, just use all rolled oats)
  • 2 cups raw walnut pieces
  • 1 cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Wet ingredients:

  • ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup (preferably grade B, which is darker and more delicious)
  • ¼ cup honey (If you can get your hands on buckwheat or chestnut honey, it will make your granola extra special)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cups dried apple slices (about 3 medium apples if you are drying your own)

If you are drying your own apples, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200° F. Slice the apple very thinly--using a mandolin helps for this. I don’t bother to core the apple as the seeds just fall out as you slice. Place the apple slices on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 1 hour. Turn the apple slices over and rotate the pans. Bake for another hour. Test the slices to see if they are crisp. If so, remove them from the oven and let the apples cool completely before removing them from the pan. If not, bake the apple slices for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until completely dry and crisp. These will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

To bake the granola, preheat the oven to 300° F. 

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Place the sugar in a small bowl and add the vanilla seeds. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar; this will keep the vanilla from clumping together in the granola.

Place the vanilla sugar in a large bowl. Add all the dry ingredients (not the dried apple slices) and stir to combine thoroughly.

Combine the wet ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry ingredients have been coated.

Divide the granola between two parchment-lined sheet pans. Spread the granola out and place the pans in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, rotating the pans and stirring the granola every 10 minutes or so. After 45 minutes the granola will be golden but not completely dry. Don’t worry about that, it will crisp up as it sits. Place the sheet pans on wire cooling racks and give the granola a final stir so it doesn’t dry into big clumps. When the granola is completely cool, stir in the dried apple slices. Transfer it to an airtight container (I like a big mason jar) and store in a cool dry place. Tightly covered, the granola will keep for several weeks.

Makes about 10 cups

Apple-Rosemary Granola // Milly's Kitchen