yogurt

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

A few days ago, while sitting around the table at my favorite Parisian restaurant with a group of talented creative types from around the globe, I was overcome with the urge to reach under the table and pinch myself. Nothing dramatic. Just a small gesture to ensure I wasn’t at home in my bed dreaming this whole scenario into reality. 

Lately, I find it hard to believe that my life is my life. I’m not saying I don’t have days where I gnash my teeth in frustration with the world. Or feel completely uninspired. Or disappointed with myself. Or angry at the flabbiness of my upper arms. (On my worst days, I feel all of these things simultaneously.)

But on this particular day, in this particular restaurant, in front of the most ethereal lemon tart I’ve ever tasted, I felt a rush of pleasure and satisfaction wash over me. Followed by a wave of incredulity that my life includes things like trips to Paris and creative collaborations with people whose work I admire and light-as-air lemon tarts.

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

Three years ago, when I decided to leave a business venture I’d poured myself into, I cried every day for a month. My business partner and I, to put it mildly, did not see eye to eye. After months of stress and conflict and feeling like I couldn’t be myself at work, it was time to bow out. 

When I wasn’t crying, I was filled with anger and resentment. And fear. How would I earn a living? What would I do next? Would I be able to re-invent myself or would I end up a crazy cat lady living with my mom until I was old and grey? To open that business had been my dream for years and it had utterly imploded. These were some dark days. 

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

But somewhere in the middle of the anger and hurt and sadness and fear, a tiny seed took root. A vision for the future and what sort of work I could find fulfilling began to take shape. I started teaching cooking classes again to regain a sense of connection with my community. I bought a camera and learned to use it. I started this blog. Finally, I worked up the courage to pursue another dream of mine--leading culinary tours abroad to share my favorite cities with others. Along the way, I’ve gotten married, bought a house in a vibrant neighborhood I love and forged new friendships. 

Sitting at that table in Paris, I couldn’t help thinking this was the sort of lemons-into-lemonade moment that makes life a wonderment. I wouldn’t have found myself at that table without the soul-bruising experience of leaving my last business. I’d likely still be working long days and trying to be someone I’m not, instead of traveling and discovering my love of photography and meeting inspiring humans all over the world. (I certainly wouldn’t be drinking nearly as much amazing French wine!)

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

In the spirit of turning lemons into lemonade, I give you this roasted rhubarb parfait. After a cake recipe I was working on turned out to be a total failure, I took the leftover roasted rhubarb and swirled it into some yogurt, then scattered cocoa nibs over the top for crunch. It was infinitely better than that cake.

This version also has coconut, vanilla and honey for depth of flavor. For those of you facing uncertainty, self-doubt or fear of what the future holds, I hope it serves as a little reminder that we never really know what lies ahead. And that often the lemons (or crappy cakes or career setbacks) life sends our way lead to something far more rewarding than we ever could have imagined.

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

Roasted Rhubarb Parfaits with Coconut Yogurt and Cacoa Nibs

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 lb rhubarb (about 6 medium stalks), trimmed, halved lengthwise if thick, and sliced about ⅓-inch thick
  • 8 oz (1 pint) strawberries, tops removed and diced about ⅓-inch thick
  • 6 tablespoons honey, plus an additional to taste
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 cups plain greek yogurt (I used Ellenos yogurt)
  • ½ cup coconut cream (I used one 5.4 fluid oz/160 mL can from Native Forest)
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 6 tablespoons cacao nibs (I like Theo cacao nibs best)

*Notes: For a vegan version, use plain greek style coconut yogurt. If using coconut yogurt, you can omit or cut back on the coconut cream.

- If you can’t find coconut cream, buy a can of coconut milk and place it in your fridge until cold. Open it, pour off the liquid (reserve for another use) and use the thick coconut cream that remains. 

- These parfaits can be made in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge for a couple days. When I did this, mine set up and had an almost cheesecake-like consistency, which was delicious! If you go this route, I recommend adding the top layer of coconut and cacao nibs just before serving to add a little extra crunch.

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via millys-kitchen.com

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Place the seeds in a medium bowl along with the rhubarb, strawberries, 6 tablespoons of honey and a pinch of salt. Stir gently to combine and set aside for 20 minutes. While the fruit is macerating, preheat the oven to 400 F. 

Spread the rhubarb and strawberries out on a parchment-lined sheet pan along with their juices. Roast until some of the rhubarb is falling apart and the juices have thickened to a syrup-like consistency, about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl and add the coconut cream. Whisk to combine well. Whisk in honey to taste. (The amount will vary depending on how tangy your yogurt is--I used 2 tablespoons.) Place a couple tablespoons of the coconut yogurt in the bottom of 6 small (4- to 6-oz.) glasses. Spoon a tablespoon or so of the roasted rhubarb over the yogurt and top with some of the flaked coconut and cacao nibs. Repeat the layering process one more time, then serve.

Makes 6 servings.

roasted rhubarb parfaits with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs via 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

simple suppers: zucchini and chicken meatballs with fresh herbs

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

For most of my life spaghetti and meatballs didn’t rank among the meals I consider comfort food. I did not grow up eating this ubiquitous dish. Unless, of course, you include the many cans of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs I ate as a kid. (Since soggy canned pasta seems like it shouldn’t count as food, I’m inclined not to.)

I didn’t like real spaghetti and meatballs until I tasted the superlative version served at La Medusa several years ago. Shortly after that, my friend Molly introduced me to the marvel that is a Cafe Lago meatball

For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of sampling the meatballs served at this Seattle institution, I can tell you they are the real deal. The perfect blend of beef, pork, herbs, spices and salty parmesan, these meatballs are so juicy and tender they barely benefit from the addition of pasta or sauce.

I was hooked.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

I may be late to the game, but I like to think I’m making up for lost time in my culinary exploration of the world’s great meatballs. In addition to all manner of Italian meatballs, I’ve made Moroccan kefta, studded with chiles and preserved lemon. Turkish dumplings with garlicky lamb meatballs inside. Thai-spiced pork meatballs with Sriracha aioli. Persian koofteh bound with basmati rice and fragrant with mint.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

The common thread that ties all these savory spheres of ground meat together is their no-frills origins. Try as one might, there’s no disguising the meatball’s utilitarian roots: a little leftover meat, minced and tossed with an egg, yesterday’s bread crumbs and a few spices for good measure. 

It’s precisely this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink flexibility that makes the meatball so appealing. There’s no end to the number of flavors meatballs can accommodate, making them the perfect vehicle for using up whatever odds and ends are floating around the kitchen.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

When I opened my fridge yesterday, I found a few scallions, a couple lemons, some random herbs and a pile of zucchini balancing precariously on the edge of usability. I remembered a delicious turkey burger recipe from my favorite cookbook and--voilà!--these meatballs were born.

I’m calling these a Simple Supper because if you own a food processor, they come together in a flash. You can mix up the tangy, garlicky yogurt sauce while the meatballs are in the oven. Add a green salad or a few crudités for dipping in the yogurt and you’ve got a meal. 

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

It may have taken me a while to discover how comforting the humble meatball can be. But I’m proud to report I’d now take a plate of homemade meatballs over a can of microwaved SpaghettiOs any day.


Zucchini and Chicken Meatballs with Fresh Herbs

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • ¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed parsley leaves
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (dark meat)
  • 3 green onions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • ½ teaspoon chile flakes
  • 1 large egg
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed mixed herbs such as mint, cilantro, parlsey, dill or basil (I used cilantro and dill)
  • Finely grated lemon zest, to garnish
  • Garlic-Sumac Yogurt, to serve (recipe below)
zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

*Notes: I always double grind the meat when I’m making meatballs; it yields a more tender, juicy meatball that is less likely to fall apart when you cook it. I either ask the butcher to do it for me or just throw regular ground meat in my food processor for about 20 seconds to get a finer texture and more even distribution of fat. Of course, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t double-grind the meat, but I find it makes a much better meatball. 

- If you don’t have a food processor, you can ask your butcher to double grind the chicken. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater before salting and draining. Then mince the garlic by hand and roughly chop the herbs before adding them to the ground chicken. 

- These meatballs freeze beautifully. Once you have them formed, put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the meatballs to a resealable bag. They will keep for up to two months in the freezer. They can be browned from frozen, but will require more time in the oven.

- If you don't need these meatballs to be gluten-free, you can replace the almond meal with dried breadcrumbs.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

Grate the zucchini using the shredding disk of your food processor. Place the grated zucchini in a colander or a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside to drain for at least 15 minutes. 

Place the drained zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and wring to dry. You want to remove as much water as possible so your meatballs don’t fall apart when you cook them. Place the zucchini in a large mixing bowl.

Remove the shredding disk from your food processor and insert the s-shaped blade. Add the garlic and process to roughly chop it. Add the mint, cilantro and parsley and process until roughly chopped. Add the chicken and process for 20 seconds more, until the fat is more evenly distributed in the meat. Transfer the chicken mixture to the bowl with the zucchini. Add the green onion, 1 more teaspoon of salt, the parmesan, almond meal, ground cumin, chile flakes and egg. Mix well to combine. Use a two-tablespoon scoop to shape the mixture into balls. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for at least 20 minutes.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com

Preheat the oven to 400F. 

Heat a large, heatproof skillet (preferably cast iron or carbon steel) over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to generously coat the bottom. When the oil is shimmery, add the meatballs. Cook, turning as necessary until the meatballs are nicely browned, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the meatballs are no longer pink in the middle, about 10 minutes longer. (You can cut into one to check doneness.)

To serve, sprinkle the meatballs with fresh herbs and lemon zest and accompany with Garlic-Sumac Yogurt.

Makes about 30 meatballs, 6-8 servings.

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.


Garlic-Sumac Yogurt

  • 2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane or minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 2 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Generous pinch sea salt

*Note: If you can't find sumac, you can leave it out. The yogurt will still be delicious.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

Makes about 2 cups.

zucchini and chicken meatballs on millys-kitchen.com