Category Archives: Winter

Valentine’s Day Dinner Ideas from ‘Heather Cooks!’

Let’s face it, there’s nothing more romantic than a home cooked meal and nothing more unromantic than eating over-priced pre-fixe menus in crowded restaurants. Here are some of my favorite things to make for my sweetie on Valentine’s Day (or any day.)

Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara:

Seared Scallops with Sage Brown Butter:

Butternut Squash Risotto:

Roasted Chicken with Herbs:

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Filed under Dinner, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Pasta, Uncategorized, Winter

More Cheese Please: Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup. Photo: Heather Platt

“Isn’t it funny how we all remember Vermont?” Said Nana into the land line phone in her nursing home apartment.

I’d called  her to tell her that her famous Limpa Bread recipe and the guidance she’d given me over the phone the day before had lead to the most perfect batch yet. So perfect that two entire loaves of the crusty, soft, brown goodness seemed to have already disappeared from our countertop. Mysterious, I know.

Nana was pleased. “Mmmm.” She said, imagining she could taste it too. “It’s the best warm, with butter…” she specified trailing off in thought into the fantasy of Limpa deliciousness.  And then it occurred to me. That’s where this came from. This utter obsession with achieving maximum deliciousness, the utmost joy from watching someone happily devour the food you made. I got that from Nana.

“Oh no, I never bothered with any recipes at the restrunt.” She answered after I inquired about the menu items at her and my late-grandfather’s Vermont eatery.

“How did you make everything?” I was blown away. The woman owned, managed and cooked, from scratch with apparently no guidance, everything on the menu at “Bischoff’s Restaurant.” In the 1940s and 50s, hungry skiers  and locals alike piled into cozy wooden benches to enjoy her cooking.

“I just made it and tasted as I went along.” She said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever made my split pea soup? I wrote it down for you somewhere.” I will get that recipe as soon as possible. But until then, this Vermont Cheddar soup will have to do. And it does.

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Filed under Appetizer, Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, Lunch, Soup/Stew, Uncategorized, Winter

Winner Winner Lobster Dinner: Steamed Maine Lobster 101

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Despite growing up in a land-locked state, I have had the great fortune of having extended family who dwell along the seacoast in southern Maine.  Every childhood visit there involved a trip to the lobster pound to buy a dozen of the live little crustaceans followed by a casual family feast of the delicious delicacies. We sat around a table, excited with white plastic bibs tied around our necks and claw-crackers in hand. The Vermonters at the table would always ask the Mainers to show them how to efficiently extract the meat from the tail, claws, legs and torso. My cousin Ty would explain that her Aunt Wendy always ate the “green stuff” and as kids we would squeal with disgust and fascination. Now, like the legendary Aunt Wendy, I too eat the “green stuff.” This internal part of the lobster, called Tomalley, is actually the liver and pancreas of the animal. So that explains why I find it so flavorful, which it is, FYI. Aunt Wendy is a smart woman. A big bucket in the center of the table served as a sort of basket ball hoop for shells to be tossed after the precious meat had been consumed.

These lobster dinners, which were served with a 1/4 cup of drawn butter for dipping, toasted English muffins, corn on the cob and a fresh garden salad were all I ever knew of eating lobster. For many years I rolled my eyes at over-priced lobster on restaurant menus. In truth because I just couldn’t bear to eat it outside of this nostalgic familial context. And thanks to a recent tutorial from one of my favorite Mainers, I finally learned how to make it.

Enjoy!

Heather

live lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Live Lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Classic Steamed Maine Lobster Dinner

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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Fish, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Spring, Summer, Winter

Dinner Party for One: Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce

 lonelygirl chicken 14Cooking is easy. I believe that anyone can make a delicious meal. Like anything in life, it’s a matter of desire. Clearly, I have no problem committing an entire day to ingredient sourcing, chopping, mincing, searing and slicing. It’s fun for me. I understand that it’s not for everyone. And even I have days when I really wish that a home cooked meal would magically appear on my plate. But even though we all differ in our cooking desires and abilities, one common thread remains; we all need to eat. And as far as I know, we would all prefer what we eat to be delicious.

 

 lonegirl chicken 3

 

But why does cooking have to be so polarizing? It seems that people are defined as those who cook and those who don’t. There must be some happy medium, some comfortable place halfway in between slaving over David Chang’s braised pork butt and simply running to the neighborhood ramen restaurant for takeout. My column Perfect Pantry was created to tackle this problem. How to cook when you don’t feel like going to the store. But along with ingredients, we need recipes.

The most challenging of these I-don’t-feel-like-cooking times are the nights alone. We’ve all been there. You are in your kitchen, hungry glancing back and forth from your phone to your fridge. The only thing in your freezer is gin. Because if you’re like me, you’re not a frozen-dinner kind-of-person. Is it worth making a mess if it’s just for me? Is there anything here to make? A steamed pork bun just sounds so good right now…Okay, maybe that’s just me. But recently I was in this position. My husband, a musician, has been on tour for most of the summer. So when my favorite person to cook for is away, I can’t help but feel uninspired.

But then I got to thinking about how this whole cooking obsession began in the first place. And I see a single twenty-something girl in her East Village apartment, blasting Belle and Sebastian songs on her stereo and cracking open a bottle of Pinot Noir while she comes up with a purpose for the treasures she rounded up at the Union Square Farmer’s market that day. A girl who cured her own loneliness by regularly throwing herself a one-woman dinner party and in the process, learned how to cook. So eight years later, I decided to channel that inner single girl. And on a hot summer night in Los Angeles, made myself a Bee’s Knees cocktail with the aforementioned gin and started cooking.

Enjoy,

Heather

 

lonegirl chicken 12

Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce
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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Poultry, Spring, Summer, Winter

Vermont Maple Memories: Pepper-seared Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, Spinach, Turnip Purée and Maple Balsamic Sauce

Pepper-seared Filet Mignon with Maple Balsamic Sauce, Spinach and Turnip Purée. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pepper-seared Filet Mignon with Maple Balsamic Sauce, Gorgonzola, Spinach and Turnip Purée. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

When it comes to “comfort food” we tend to refer back to the simple things we ate during our childhood, mac and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, ice cream, apple pie and mom’s chicken soup (to name a few). But having grown up in northern Vermont in the middle of acres and acres of farm land, nothing is more comforting to me than pure Vermont maple syrup. When I was kid, my parents refused to accept payment from our neighbor farmer for the hay he needed to take from our fields every fall to feed his cattle through the winter. I have fond memories of climbing up on to those giant prickly marshmallow-shaped hay bales and attempting to jump from one to the next. Instead, in exchange for the free-hay, farmer Tucker would give us a handsome two-gallon jug of pure grade A Vermont maple syrup, which he had tapped from his own maple trees and boiled down in his Sugar-house into the luscious syrup. In all of my almost 18-years growing up in Vermont, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t at least one of those huge jugs on the floor of our kitchen pantry. It was a constant staple, like flour, sugar and salt. We never ran out. And what most non-Vermonters don’t realize is that maple syrup isn’t an ingredient meant only for drizzling over pancakes. It’s a secret-weapon ingredient for all kinds of other desserts, savory dishes, salad dressings and in this case, balsamic steak sauce! My brother’s girlfriend Bliss, who also grew up in Vermont but lives in Brooklyn now, admitted to me once, “All of my friends make fun of me for my cooking. They say that I put maple syrup in everything I make.” I looked at her, confused. “Why? That’s a good thing.”

Enjoy!

Heather

Vermont Farm Offerings. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Vermont Farm Offerings. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pepper-seared Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, Spinach, Turnip Purée and Maple Balsamic Sauce

Serves 4

For Steak and Sauce:

  • 4( 6-ounce) filet mignons, trimmed
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup pure Vermont maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoon French brandy
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola, for topping

For Turnips:

  • 1 lb turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 bunch baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Coat one side of each filet with cracked pepper.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the turnips and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain. Return the turnips to the pan and add the cream. Return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cream coats the turnips, about 4 minutes. Purée turnip mixture in a food processor until smooth. Cover and keep warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast-iron (or other oven-proof) skillet over medium-high heat until oil just begins to smoke. Add the filets, pepper side down and sear well on one side for about 3 minutes. Turn the filets over and sear for 2 more minutes before transferring the skillet to the oven for 5 more minutes.

Remove the steaks from the skillet and set aside, covered to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Using the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and sauté until soft and translucent, stirring frequently. Stir in the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and apple-cider vinegar and cook until sauce is reduced by have. Continue to stir. This should take about 5 minutes

Stir in the beef stock. Remove the skillet from heat and add the brandy. Return the skillet to the heat. When the sauce begins to boil, whisk in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place a large dollop of the turnips on the center of four plates. Place a delicate handful of the baby spinach on top of each dollop. place the cooked steaks on top of the spinach. Using a large spoon, drizzle the sauce generously over the steaks. Top each steak with desired amount of crumbled Gorgonzola.

Vermont Farmland. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Vermont Farmland. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Vermont Cow. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Vermont Cow. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pepper-Seared Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, Spinach, Turnip Purée  and Maple Balsamic Sauce. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pepper-Seared Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, Spinach, Turnip Purée and Maple Balsamic Sauce. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

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Filed under Dinner, Gluten-free, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Winter

Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook Preview: Little Gems with Reed Avocados, Cara Cara Oranges, and Cilantro

 

Little Gems with Reed Avocados, Cara Cara Oranges, and Cilantro. Photo Credit:  Heather Platt

Little Gems with Reed Avocados, Cara Cara Oranges, and Cilantro. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

 

I love this salad so much that I’ve made it three times since Suzanne emailed me access to the AOC Cookbook draft. With so many incredible recipes to try, it sounds crazy to be making one of them multiple times. But it’s made up of two of my favorite things, Cara Cara oranges, which are the most special and delicious of oranges, and avocados, which have become a staple in my California kitchen. This salad really is the perfect winter salad to brighten up a table full of hearty and rich winter fare. It is refreshing, light and crisp and since it’s Cara Cara season right now, why not make it while I can? And if possible, get your lettuces from Coleman Farms at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.  They have the most beautiful lettuces in California. And don’t be dissuaded by Farmer Romeo’s serious exterior. He’s so nice that his nickname is “The Jolly Green Giant.”( I prefer to call him “Romeo, Romeo”). In any case, Coleman Farms is where the Lucques chefs go for lettuce. And I suggest you do too!

 

Coleman Farmers. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Coleman Farmers. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Romeo Coleman of Coleman Farms, the best place to get lettuce! Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Romeo Coleman of Coleman Farms, the best place to get lettuce! Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Cara Cara Oranges. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Cara Cara Oranges. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Limes for the avocado dressing. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Limes for the avocado dressing. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

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Filed under Appetizer, Gluten-free, Heather Platt, In Season, Salad, Vegetarian, Winter

Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook Preview: Alaskan Black Cod with Kabocha Squash, Golden Raisins, and Pedro Ximenez

Suzanne Goin's Alaskan Black Cod with Kabocha, Golden Raisins and Pedro Ximenez. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Suzanne Goin’s Alaskan Black Cod with Kabocha, Golden Raisins and Pedro Ximenez. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

After reading through the final draft of Suzanne Goin’s  soon-to-be-published AOC cookbook, I felt a) starving and b) inspired to cook EVERY delicious recipe in it. I would scroll through it over and over again reading through the recipes obsessing and thinking, “That one sounds good….oh that sounds so good too. Wait, actually I think I have to make that one first.”

Like Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Suzanne’s AOC cookbook is conveniently divided up into seasons which helped me narrow down my culinary indecision to fall and winter recipes, recipes for which I knew I could find ingredients at the weekly farmer’s market. And as much as I wanted to make EVERYTHING all at once and eat it immediately, I couldn’t stop thinking about this one black cod recipe that involved Suzanne’s favorite of squashes, kabocha, golden raisins, and something called Pedro Ximenez, which she describes as “one of the worlds greatest uses of grapes.” Given that description and my weakness for any recipe involving golden raisins (I love snacking on them while I cook. It’s the same with Marcona almonds, which aren’t in this, but thankfully Suzanne loves Marconas too.) I had to make it. I love recipes that introduce me to new ingredients!  Or in this case, a pantry staple. Everyone should have a bottle of Pedro Ximenez sherry in their kitchen. And after an easy trip to my local wine store and  a pleasant trip to the farmer’s market, I found myself eating one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever tasted. Now the only question is, what to cook next?….

Santa Monica Farmer's Market Kabocha Squash. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Santa Monica Farmer’s Market Kabocha Squash. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pedro Ximenez Sherry.Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Pedro Ximenez Sherry.
Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Alaskan Black Cod with Kabocha, Golden Raisins and Pedro Ximenez. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Alaskan Black Cod with Kabocha, Golden Raisins and Pedro Ximenez. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Fish, Gluten-free, Heather Platt, In Season, Main Course, Uncategorized, Winter