fennel

roasted white beans with fennel + mint chimichurri

Image: Olaiya Land

Ok. It’s time to get real with y’all. I have struggled with my weight for pretty much my entire life. As I wrote about in this post, I was a chubby bi-racial kid growing up in a super white, rural farming community. We moved to Wichita when I was 9, where I was the chubby brown girl who didn’t quite fit in with the white kids and wasn’t quite accepted by the black kids. I have a vivid memory of bawling my head off around this age because my hair wasn’t long and straight and blond like my mother’s. From the time I can remember anything, I remember feeling like I didn't belong. 

As a single-parent, my mom worked a lot when I was little. I spent most of my days with my grandparents, both of whom had lived through the Great Depression. They kept their house stocked to the rafters with every manner of foodstuff imaginable. They fed me sugar cereal, mac-n-cheese and candy bars. Fried chicken, frozen pizza and Hostess fruit pies. 

Food was love. And they loved the shit out of me. 

Image: Olaiya Land

It was the early 80s and we didn’t know as much back then about how sugar and processed carbs are essentially garbage. I know my grandparents just wanted to spoil me--their only grandchild for 9 years--and make sure I never went without the pleasures they had to forgo as children.

Food was my solace and my secret shame. By the time I was 12, I had a full-on eating disorder. I wanted to be thin and popular and look like the other girls at a time when almost no one looked like me. But I needed food to assuage my awkwardness and my fear of not being good enough. It was a vicious cycle.

Image: Olaiya Land

Fast-forward to adulthood. I’ve learned to love myself and love the body that I’m in. But it’s been a long road. From the time I graduated college until today, I’ve experimented with a vast panoply of diets. Weight Watchers. The Zone. Atkins. Keto. Low-fat. High-fat. Intuitive Eating. Extreme calorie restriction. The works. 

Things started to get better in the body kindness department the day I banished my scale. That sly dictator lounging under the bathroom sink had been running my life for years. I decided he had to go. Not weighing myself has been a major boost to my self-esteem. (And I’m serious about it--I don’t even let my doctor tell me my weight when I go to see her.) 

Next came finding a way of eating that works for me. I’ve been tweaking this over the past couple of years, but the gist of it is that I go easy on the sugar and carbs. I’ve learned that counting calories is absolutely toxic for me; I quickly tip over into crazytown if I go down that path, anxiously obsessing over everything that goes in my mouth. 

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

I’m currently eating slow carb, which means lots of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and unrefined carbs, like beans and lentils. And zero calorie counting. Saturday is a free day when I eat whatever I want. So I don’t feel like anything is permanently out of bounds. (A girl has to get her pizza on from time to time!)

On the exercise front, I’ve decided only to do activities that I would do even if they burned no calories. I will play tennis in the freezing cold or blistering heat. I'd play in the rain if I could. There’s almost nothing that can keep me off the courts. So this is definitely on the list. I do strength training that involves a lot of balancing and compound movements because it feels like play and makes me feel strong and capable. And I walk with Beau in the evenings. That’s it. 

Image: Olaiya Land

So, about these beans. 

A slow-carb lifestyle involves A LOT of beans. And though I love beans in all their many shapes and sizes, here’s the truth of the matter: beans can get pretty boring when you eat them night after night.

One evening, I decided to toss some beans in with the vegetables I was roasting. What came out of the oven was AMAZING. (Some might even call it culinary genius. I’m not saying who.) These roasted beans were crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. Like dreamy little roasted potatoes. Or tater tots. Only healthier. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Now I am obsessed with roasted beans. They are my new go-to weeknight starch. I toss them on a sheet pan along with whatever vegetables I have lazing around in my fridge. Thirty minutes later--voilà! Supper is served. If you’re feeling fancy, poach a couple eggs or throw a piece of fish on the grill to serve alongside. Add a squeeze of lemon or a few dashes of hot sauce. It’s hard to go wrong.

For those of you who are perhaps less experimental in the kitchen, here is a recipe to get you started. You roast up a tray of plump corona beans (or gigantes or any other large bean really) with a bit of shallot. Grill up some squid (if you’re into seafood). Add some shaved fennel for crunch and a fresh, zingy chimichurri and your weeknight supper just got extra sexy.

Wherever you are in your relationship with food and your body, I think you can feel pretty good about this salad. It’s delicious whole foods, simply prepared. Miles away from Kraft mac-n-cheese and Hostess fruit pies. But with all the love.

XO,

Olaiya


Image: Olaiya Land

Roasted White Beans with Fennel and Mint Chimichurri

  • 4 cups cooked corona beans (or other large white beans), rinsed
  • 1 medium shallot, sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus an extra squeeze for the fennel
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon chopped calabrian chiles in oil or a generous pinch of chile flakes
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint, plus additional mint to garnish
  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 recipe Grilled Squid (see below), optional

*Notes: Canned beans will work for this recipe, but home cooked beans are best. Plus it's difficult to find large beans like coronas or gigantes in a can. Here are some tips on how to cook a perfect pot of beans.

- When it comes to Calabrian chiles, I love this brand. (Seattle friends: I buy these at PFI in SoDo)

- Grilled octopus would also be delicious in this recipe!

 

Preheat your oven to 475° F.

While the oven is preheating, dry your beans thoroughly with paper towels then transfer them to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Scatter the sliced shallot over the beans and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat the beans and the shallot. When the oven is hot, roast the beans, stirring occasionally for even browning, for 12-20 minutes. The exact time will depend on the size of your beans and how wet they are when they go in. You want them to be golden brown in spots, crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside. Don't worry if some of them split open. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the beans are cooking, make the chimichurri: in a medium bowl, stir together 6 tablespoons of the olive oil along with the lemon zest, juice, garlic, chiles, mint and a pinch of salt.

With a sharp knife, Japanese slicer or mandoline, thinly slice the fennel and place it in a bowl. Toss it with a tablespoon or so of the chimichurri and an extra squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and add more chimichurri or lemon juice if you like.

When the beans have cooled somewhat, drizzle most of the chimichurri over them (save a tablespoon or so if you are making the squid). Toss to coat. Season to taste with more salt if necessary. Place the seasoned beans in a serving bowl and top with the dressed fennel and the grilled squid (if you're adding them). Sprinkle the reserved mint and torn fennel fronds over the salad and serve. 


Tender Grilled Squid

• 1 lb. squid, cleaned, cut into large pieces and patted very dry with paper towels
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Sea salt

*Note: You can buy cleaned, pre-cut squid from your fishmonger or clean it yourself, which is a lot cheaper. Here's a video if you need help.

Roasted Beans with Fennel and Squid-15.jpg

Heat a large pan over high heat for a minute or so. Add enough olive oil to film the bottom of the pan, then add the squid pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squid is opaque and just barely cooked through, 2-4 minutes. It will give off a lot of water. Don't worry, this is normal. Do not overcook the squid or it will get rubbery.

Immediately transfer the squid to a large plate to cool. While the squid is cooling, heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.

Toss the squid in olive oil to barely coat (use some of the mint chimichurri if you have it) then grill until char marks appear, 1-2 minutes. Turn and grill for another minute or so until char marks appear on the other side. Transfer to a bowl to cool or eat immediately. 


grapefruit-fennel shortbread cookies

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

Hello people!

Are you in the holiday spirit yet? Despite having a mountain of work to finish this month, I’m feeling especially festive. Since we’ll be spending the holidays in Paris this year, Beau and I have decided to skip getting a tree. We haven’t strung any lights. And there are no prettily wrapped presents waiting to be opened on Christmas morning.

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

What I have done is: 
1) Play a lot of Christmas music. (There’s nothing like singing along to All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey at the top of your lungs. Sorry neighbors!)  

2) Host a holiday pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle where I got to feed a bunch of awesome folks. I never get tired of seeing peple eat, drink and laugh around my table.

3) Spend time with good friends (which might have led to a few too many rounds of late-night Manhattans).

4) Bake like a crazy person. I’ve made waaay too many of these kuri squash and olive oil cakes, a mountain of seeded toffee bark, jars of coconut curd, stacks of these cheesy crackers, 6 batches of these German spice cookies. And last but not least, these grapefruit-fennel shortbread cookies.

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

These cookies weren’t originally on the agenda. But when Holly and Natalie from The Modern Proper emailed to say they were putting together a #calmandbrightcookienight, I said I was in. Because there’s no such thing as too many cookies at the holidays!

These turned out to be my favorite of all the homemade holiday gifts I've made this year. They’re subtly sweet with a bright hit of citrus. But it’s the herbaceous fennel that seals the deal for me. If you like sweets with a little savory twist, these guys are for you. 

As always, I hope you’ll make this recipe your own. Cook them as the recipe directs or get creative and try a different citrus (I’m thinking meyer lemon would be stellar) or different spice. Chop up candied citrus and throw it in the batter along with a handful of nuts. Glaze. Don’t glaze. Roll them in sanding sugar before baking. Or give them a dip in some melted chocolate. It’s up to you. 

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

For even more sweet inspiration join the #calmandbrightcookienight celebration! Below is a list of all the bakers contributing to the festivities. If you've been having trouble figuring out what to bake this year, we’ve got you covered. Check out all these gorgeous holiday cookies--hopefully you’ll find a new favorite blogger or two to follow! 

Wishing you all a Calm and Bright holiday,

Olaiya


The Modern Proper | Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel
Wood and Spoon | Candied Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Floating Kitchen | Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies 
Brewing Happienss | Mint Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies 
The Vintage Mixer | Ginger Creams with Browned Butter Icing 

Wu Haus | Raw Vegan Gingerbread Cookie Sandwiches
The Almond Eater | Homemade Almond Biscotti
Chocolate + Marrow | Brown Butter Gingerbread Madeleines   
Hungry Girl Por Vida | Lemon Pistachio Linzer Cookies
Honestly YUM | Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) 

Husbands That Cook | Chocolate Sugar Cookies
The Judy Lab | Sea Salt Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gather and Dine | Chocolate Almond Spelt Cookies
Betty S Liu | Cardamom Persimmon Cookies with Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Ganache
Harvest and Honey | Milk & Cookies

Bakerita | Chocolate Rugelach (gluten free + refined sugar free) 
The Fauxmartha | Snowball Cookies
The Kitchen Paper | Soft Toffee Cookies
Life Is But A Dish | Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cookies
Oh Honey Bakes | Pomegranate Pistachio and Almond Biscotti 

The Brick Kitchen | Coconut Raspberry Wagon Wheels
Alexandra Cooks | Classic Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies
Hello My Dumpling | Ginger Viennese Whirl Cookies with Matcha Passion Fruit Filling
Snixy Kitchen | Peppermint Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Tending the Table | Almond Macaroons with Satsuma Marmalade

PDX Food Love | Chocolate Bourbon Swirl Meringues
Lasting Ingredient | Lemon Lime Shortbread
Heart Beet Kitchen | Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies
Carly Diaz | Dark Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread Cookie
Cloudy Kitchen | Early Grey Shortbread
Lena’s Kitchen Blog | Shortbread Cookies Three Ways 


Grapefruit-Fennel Shortbread Cookies

  • 9 oz. (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling and shaping
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 oz. (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 oz. (6 tablespoons) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely-grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit)
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Glaze (recipe below)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced candied grapefruit or orange zest (recipe below)

*Notes: Rolling shortbread cookies out can be challenging if your dough is too cold or too warm. The trick is to check it frequently once you’ve removed it from the fridge and to roll it when it’s just pliable but still cool to the touch. If the edges crack immediately when you roll it, it’s too cold. Just push the cracks back together and let the dough warm up a bit more. If the dough gets too warm and wants to stick to your work surface and pin, place it back in the fridge to firm up a bit before proceeding. 

- Alternately, if you don’t want to roll the dough out, you can roll the dough into a log and go the slice-and-bake route.

- Feel free to use store-bought candied citrus peel to garnish these. (If you’re in Seattle, PFI has really good quality candied citrus around the holidays.) If you’d like to make your own, the recipe is below.

- These cookies would be delicious made with other citrus fruits and/or spices. You may need to adjust the amount of zest and juice up or down a bit depending on how tart or bitter your fruit is. 

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, fennel and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to cream until smooth, 2-3 more minutes. Add the zest and juice and mix just to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Mix for 30 seconds more.

Spoon half of the dough into the middle of a large piece of plastic wrap. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a ½-inch thick round. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

When firm, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10  minutes. Remove from the plastic wrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and on your rolling pin. Roll to ¼-inch thickness, rotating the dough often and flouring as needed to make sure it doesn’t stick to your work surface. Cut to desired shape, periodically flouring your knife or cookie cutter so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze solid. (I know all this chilling and shaping and freezing may sound a bit fussy, but it will keep your cookies from slumping or spreading when you bake them. Freezing your dough = the key to pretty cookies and pie crusts.)

Bring your dough scraps together into a ball and chill briefly before re-rolling and cutting more cookies. You can re-roll your scraps twice. More than that will start make your cookies tough.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan (not the one you froze them on--that will prolong the bake time). Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate your pan(s) and continue to bake until the bottom edges are just golden brown, about 4 minutes more. Take care not to overcook the cookies.

Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer cookies to the wire rack to cool. When completely cool, dip your cookies face-down in the grapefruit glaze and top with sliced candied citrus peel if desired.

Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.


Grapefruit Glaze

  • 16 oz (about 4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

Place the sifted sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 3 tablespoons of the juice. If the glaze seems too thick, add more juice, one teaspoon at a time. You want a glaze that flows like honey and briefly forms a ribbon on the surface when you pour it from a spoon. 

This will keep for several days if you place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the glaze before tightly wrapping the whole bowl in plastic wrap.

Makes about 1 cup of glaze.


Candied Citrus Peel

  • 8 large lemons or 4 oranges or 2 grapefruit
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus additional for rolling if desired
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on millys-kitchen.com

Using a sharp paring knife, slice along the curve of each citrus fruit from top to bottom cutting through the peel but not into the fruit (make 4 cuts for lemons, 6 for oranges or 8 for grapefruit). Use your fingers to remove the peel from the fruit. If the pith is thick, remove some of it by flattening the piece of peel and slicing horizontally. Be careful not to remove all of the pith or you will have flimsy little pieces of candied zest. Cut each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. 

Place the sliced peel in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil and then drain. This removes excess bitterness from the peel. Repeat this process at least two times. Taste the peels, if they are still bitter for your taste, repeat one more time.

Place the sugar in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Add the peels, reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peels are translucent and soft, 45-60 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of the peels.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the strips of peel to a metal cooling rack set over a parchment-lined sheet pan. When dry, roll in sugar if desired. Candied peels will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 ½ cups.

chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Today, I have for you a chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto. I love this soup because it’s easy and delicious and a great reminder of how being wrong can sometimes save the day.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not necessarily fond of being wrong. Especially in front of other people. But, in it’s own serendipitous way, this soup proved me wonderfully wrong on two occasions. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

It’s based on a chilled green soup I had at Frenchie in Paris a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with Frenchie, you might not know that obtaining a reservation here is a major logistical feat. Or that on any given evening, the sidewalk outside is awash with Beautiful People, smoking and laughing and being generally very sexy and French. I’d scoped it out several times before deciding it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype and striking it off my list. 

To be perfectly honest, I was intimidated by the effort required to secure a table. And all that sexy Frenchness. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

But when the lovely Sarah Pank, chief miracle-worker at Apartments Actually, managed to snag us a reservation, I wasn’t about to say no. Accepting her gracious offer was one of the smartest things I’ve done recently because, friends, that meal was phenomenal. All seven gorgeous courses of it. Working my way through crisp, seed-crusted cauliflower and silky foie-gras with apple confit and fresh berries with herbed ice cream, I savored every second of having my assumptions overturned.

A highlight of the meal was one of the the amuses-bouches: a tiny earthenware cup of chilled green soup, garnished with edible flowers, crunchy cured ham and creamy feta. It tasted like spring. When Beth suggested we try to recreate the soup as part of a lunch for our retreat guests, I was skeptical. It’s too cold out for a chilled soup. There’s no way we can come up with something as magical as the Frenchie version! Do people even like cold soup anyway?!? 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Beth gently insisted and I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. The green soup I ended up making was fresh and bright. A riff on the classic marriage of peas and ham, in a springier incarnation. We garnished it with a few drops of pistachio oil and crumbles of salty jambon de Bayonne from the market. It was my favorite part of the lunch. 

So in addition to being fresh and light and just the sort of thing I want to eat on a warm spring day, this soup serves as a reminder that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. And that that’s a wonderful thing.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

P.S. The Paris culinary retreat sold out in record time. (Thank you all for your wonderful support!) A lot of you wrote me asking about upcoming trips, so I wanted to let you know I've got details on the Portugal retreat headed your way next week. If you're not already on my mailing list, sign up here to get priority notice for all upcoming tours and events. XO!


Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ a medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 large bunch spinach (about 1 lb), rinsed and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups English peas (from about 2 lbs. unshelled peas)
  • 1 small head green garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 very thin slices prosciutto (serrano ham, jambon de Bayonne and pancetta are great also)
  • Pistachio oil, to garnish (or good quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Edible flowers, to garnish (I used borage, chervil and thyme flowers from my garden)

*Notes: Feel free to substitute herbs for the edible flowers. You’ll want to use more delicately flavored herbs so they don’t overwhelm the soup. Fennel fronds, tarragon, thyme leaves, small mint or basil leaves, or a few snipped chives would work well.

- If you don’t plan to eat all the soup at once, add the lemon juice and vinegar only to what you plan to eat at one sitting. They will cause the soup to lose its color if added too far in advance. (It tastes fine, but looks a little drab.)

- For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute a creamy feta or some finely-chopped pistachios for the prosciutto.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over low heat. Add the fennel and half the salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes. You don’t want the fennel to brown. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, peas, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Raise the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the vegetable or the soup will lose its bright color.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Take care not to fill your blender more than ⅔ full so the steam from the soup doesn’t blow the top off and burn you. If you don’t have a blender powerful enough to puree the soup very fine, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the pureed soup to a large bowl, thin with cold water to your desired consistency and place in the fridge to cool completely.

Remove the soup from the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before serving so it can warm up a bit. (When it’s ice cold, it looses some of it's depth.) Add the lemon juice and vinegar just before serving. Taste and add more salt and/or acid as necessary.

While the soup is warming up, crisp the prosciutto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the ham and cook, turning once or twice until crisp, about 5 mins. Transfer to a  paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of the pistachio (or olive) oil. Top with edible flowers and serve with the crispy prosciutto.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com