Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Squash soup framework recipe

I've decided that you can't really ever go wrong when making a pureed squash soup.  Making one is a piece of cake, and they are infinitely adaptable to a variety of seasonings and supporting actors... whatever is lying around your fridge/pantry.  This is my framework recipe for a killer squash soup.  With the time savers noted, it only takes about 45 min. start to finish, including chopping.  The only special equipment I really recommend is an immersion blender... there's a nice looking Cuisinart model on for $29 (almost 50% off), and a 4 out of 5 stars Proctor Silex for only $13!  Can't personally vouch for them though, the one I use was a gift from Andy's grandmother, I think she got it from QVC - it's actually great!  I use it almost exclusively for soups, but all kinds: black bean, potato, carrot... and I think it's worth having for sure.  This write-up got really long really fast ... so consider it a primer... you can read it once, carefully, and you will always know how to make squash soup because it's so forgiving.  You can't mess this one up.

Ingredients - again I'm going with a framework, not a true recipe, so I'm not giving real measurements...
-1 medium to large squash or pumpkin (butternut, turban, rouge d'etamps, acorn, pie pumpkins, pretty much anything works except spaghetti squash)
-Liquid: stock, water, diluted apple or orange juice or cider, coconut milk, or a combination of these
-Fat: If you are watching your figure, you hardly need any!  But some amount of fat will give a nice flavor and mouth-feel.  Candidates include (again your choice depends on your overall flavor scheme!): butter, ghee, olive oil, peanut oil, plain old canola or veggie oil, bacon or duck fat if you want to get meaty and fancy!
-Aromatics: the equivalent of 1 large onion, could be a combination of leeks, shallots, onions, scallions, garlic...
-Supporting players: here's where we start to get creative... from 2-4 cups of things that taste good with squash: mushrooms, apples, pears, carrots, celery, peppers, spinach... depending on your choices you will probably only want one or two, maybe three, of these things.  Or zero would be fine too.
-Seasonings: Almost anything goes.  You could do a medley of "warm" spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, chiles, and cumin, a plain or fancy curry or garam masala powder, a traditional rosemary and thyme.  Fresh herbs would be great too: cilantro or parsley for sure, oregano, thyme and sage are classics, even dill, mint, or basil I think would work.  I can even see a "chai" spiced version with ginger, vanilla, and cardamon (although might want to put the ginger in with the onions if it's fresh).  If you're finding salt boring lately, you could even substitute soy sauce, nuoc mam, or Worcestorshire sauce for some new flavors.
-Add-ons:  (optional) swirl in some cream or half and half, creme fraiche, sour cream, yogurt at the end, garnish with homemade croutons (with or without cheese), olive oil toasted bread crumbs, sprinkle some roasted pumpkin or squash seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans or walnuts, pine nuts, or grate some parmesan or gruyere right into the bowl.  Heck, throw in some bacon, sausage, small white beans, smoked or roasted poultry... (personally I would put these in after pureeing but you might disagree.)

See the notes on step 1 method comparison (*) and step 3 method alternative (**) below the recipe.

1.  (a) Peel and cube the squash OR (b) cut it in half, remove seeds, spread some oil on the flesh and roast in a 400 degree oven till soft (~1 hour) OR (c) cut in half, remove seeds, place in microwave safe casserole dish cut side down with 1/4 inch water, cover (plastic wrap is fine, pricked) and microwave for 12 minutes on high or until soft (may require more time depending on microwave and size/type of squash.*  
2.  Transfer squash chunks to stock pot, or if using methods b or c, scoop flesh into stock pot.  Cover with liquid by an inch or two (a little more if you use methods b or c because it will have a smaller volume), and bring to a boil.  If the squash is raw, it will need at least 20 minutes to soften, if cooked, it will need only about 5 minutes to soften a little more and for the flavors to meld.  Overcooking it is not really a problem since we will be pureeing.
3.  Meanwhile, heat up a sautee pan with medium heat, throw in the fat, and start sauteeing the aromatics.  If you're using spices that benefit from a little hot oil exposure (chiles, cumin come to mind, just not any of the green herbs, especially if they're fresh) put them in now too.  Throw in the supporting players when appropriate (carrots could go in right away, mushrooms or apples a bit later, but again, since we're pureeing, the texture of the sautee is negotiable, it's more to develop some browning reaction flavors.** 
4.  Once you've got some nice browning, scrape into the stock pot.  Now, immerse the immersion blender, and blend to your desired texture.  Some like it a little chunkier, some like it a little smoother.  You may want to add more liquid too, depending on your thickness preference.
5.  Add desired seasonings, salt, and pepper to taste.  Stir in add-ons or add them at the table.

* Method a pros: it's probably the quickest.  Cons: peeling and cutting the squash can make your hand hurt.  Method b pros: develops a nice flavor, avoids the cutting and peeling hassle.  Cons: takes the longest.  Method c pros: also avoids hand pain, rivals method a for speed, but probably takes a little longer cause the squash has to cool a little before you can scoop.  Cons: an extra dish gets dirty?  Really there's not much to dislike about the microwave method since the times are pretty close.
** Alternatively, for an even easier preparation, instead of sauteing, you could boil the aromatics and supporting players with the squash.  You lose some flavor, but avoid having to stir the saute and washing the saute pan, and if you go this route, you can completely skip the fat if you want.

The soup that inspired this post followed the method exactly, here were my choices:
Squash: 1 large butternut
Liquid: Turkey stock from the Thanksgiving carcass, diluted a bit.
Fat: butter, a good 2 or 3 T.
Aromatics: a few shallots, and 5 or 6 cloves of garlic.  Did I put some leeks in too?  Maybe, can't remember.
Supporting players: About 6 ozs. fresh cremini mushrooms
Seasonings: A simple combo: dry rosemary and thyme.  I would go with powdered or ground rosemary, whole leaves might be a little tough.  Salt and pepper.
Add-ons: Some grated gruyere, leftover from a different squash soup I made for Thanksgiving!

The soup I made for Thanksgiving was from Epicurious, but basically followed the same formula.  For this soup I used one rouge d'etamps squash (instead of butternut/acorn), canned chicken stock, butter, onion & garlic, no supporting players, fresh thyme and sage, cream, and awesome gruyere croutons.

Here's another couple of ideas (the squash I feel are interchangeable, so I won't specify):
~Squash/coconut milk and water/peanut oil/onions and garlic/red bell pepper/curry powder or garam masala/pumpkin seeds
~Squash/diluted orange juice/peanut oil/onions, garlic, and ginger/carrots/a little ground coriander/fresh cilantro
~Squash/diluted veggie stock (BTB)/olive oil/leeks and shallots/an apple and a pear/cinnamon, cloves, and allspice/a little cream and chopped fresh parsley or chives.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rosewater walnut shortbread

I haven't been very experimental with dinner lately.  Mostly just cooking from my repertoire and sticking with easy quick stuff as I've been really busy.  And I was out of town all last week for a conference in what might be the Mecca of food towns: Portland, Oregon.  Drool... I ate some really great meals there.

But I was craving something sweet and buttery today, so I made some shortbread.  Shortbread is one of favorite kinds of cookies.  It's so simple and good.  I used the basic recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook and will probably tweak it a few more times before submitting it to a cookie contest on Michael Ruhlman's blog.  So if you see me in the next few weeks, you can expect some shortbread.  And if you have any suggestions, let me know!  The changes are that I put in some flavors that are relatively new to me - the main one being some rosewater that I picked up at Savory Spice Shop... I think it goes great with the simple, buttery sweetness.  I also made a halfhearted attempt to incorporate some whole grain and will likely play around with this a little more.  Also thinking that chilling, rolling, and using cookie cutters will improve appearance, and that pine nuts might be better than walnuts.

As written this makes about 12 cookies.  Which I could probably finish off in two days.

1/3 c. walnut pieces (or chopped walnut halves)
1 stick of butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar, ultrafine baker's sugar is best
1 t. rosewater
a scant 1/2 t. vanilla
a pinch of salt
1/2 c. white flour
1/4 c. semolina flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour.

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Put nuts on a baking sheet, and bake for 7-9 minutes, till very fragrant. 
2.  With a fork or wooden spoon combine the butter, sugar, rosewater, vanilla, and salt.  Mash till well combined.
3.  Sift in the flours.  Stir in till a loose dough forms.  It's okay if it's not one cohesive ball.
4.  Press into a rectangle on a baking sheet (make sure it's cool, if you re-use the one from toasting the walnuts) that is about 1/3 inch thick.
5.  Press the walnuts into the dough.
6.  Bake for 15 or more minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. 
7.  Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, and let cool for 10 minutes.
8.  While still warm, use a sharp knife to cut into desired cookie shapes.  Long "fingers" are traditional.
9.  Try to prevent yourself from eating them while they're still warm.  Fail miserably.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Scrambled duck eggs with piperrada

The summer produce keeps on rolling!  Last week, we got about 2 gallons of peppers and a gallon of tomatoes.  We also did a special order of a dozen duck eggs.  I had never had duck eggs before this... so I wasn't sure what to expect.  For our first duck egg breakfast, I just cooked them over easy and we had them with some toast and grilled tomato slices.  They were only okay.  I didn't love the texture; the yolks are a bit stickier than an over easy chicken egg yolk, and the whites were much firmer.  But they were very rich.  It made me think they'd be better scrambled.  And I have to say, they definitely were.
The peppers and tomatoes that went into the piperrada
I made this for breakfast by myself on Friday.  I had some time to kill after dropping Andy off for the airport shuttle at 5:30am (he went to Montana, and his friends got their elk, he'll be coming home on Monday with a cooler full!)  I love cream cheese in scrambled eggs, and at the risk of over-rich-ifying the duck eggs, added a small amount.  I think they went great together.  Inspired by a NY Times recipe, I stewed some of the peppers and tomatoes from the CSA, trying to mimic a Basque piperrada.  Not sure how close I got, but it tasted great!  I thought about cooking everything in the same pot, but decided against it cause I wanted to be able to control the heat on the duck eggs.  Also had some leftover roasted red potatoes.  Now that's a breakfast.

Piperrada (makes a good amount!)
1 T. olive oil
12 small peppers, cut into strips (probably equivalent to 8 medium sized bell peppers.  Use a mixture of types, if possible, I think it imparts some depth... our CSA calls our peppers "Italian peppers" which look like bell peppers, and "chile peppers" which look like hatch or poblanos)
4 tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 t. smoked paprika
1 t. thyme

1.  Heat the olive oil over low heat.  Add the peppers and some salt and cook about 10 - 12 minutes, stirring only occasionally (longer's fine too, this is basically a stew).
2.  While the peppers are cooking, boil a medium pot of water.  Cut a shallow cross into the skin on the bottom of the tomatoes.  Submerge the tomatoes in the water for about 15 seconds.  Plunge the tomatoes into ice water.  Slip the peels off.  Roughly chop the tomatoes.
3.  Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, smoked paprika, and thyme.  Cover and cook for 12 - 15 minutes, stirring only occasionally.
4.  If it looks watery after 12 minutes, remove the cover and turn the heat up a little.  There should be liquid, but you probably want it more sauce-y than liquid-y.  Mine probably could have used a little more time but I was hungry.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Scrambled duck eggs (serves 1, multiply as you wish)
1 t. butter
2 duck eggs (size?  most of the ones we got were close to the size of chicken eggs... except for one giant one.  I used the chicken egg sized ones)
2-3 t. cream cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Salt, Maldon smoked sea salt if you have it

1.  Heat the butter in a sautee pan over low heat.
2.  Whisk the ducks eggs, add in some salt and pepper.
3.  Pour into sautee pan.  Use a spatula to stir and break up the curds nearly constantly.  You want to cook these guys slowly, it probably took about 5 minutes to cook my two eggs.  More than 2 eggs will take longer.   The texture at the end is closer to a small curd cottage cheese than, say, the egg patty you might get at a bagel shop on your breakfast sandwich.
4.  When they're nearly done, add the cream cheese and break apart with the spatula.  I like it mostly broken up but with an occasional tasty little chunk. 
5.  Season at the table with the smoked sea salt and more pepper.

Does anyone else have ideas on ways to cook duck eggs?  I have 6 left.  If you have an idea leave a comment!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rice cooker polenta! ... and ratatouille

I will be making polenta more often now.  I made it in my rice cooker the other night, and I think it's better, and WAY easier, than making it on the stove.  Traditional polenta calls for nearly constant stirring for 20-30 minutes.  I think the reason for this is to prevent burning and clumping, not to significantly improve the texture, as is the case in traditional risotto.  With the rice cooker, the heat is low enough so that it doesn't burn, and I'm willing to bet the tight seal and slightly elevated pressure quickens the cook time.
Kinda hard to see but I was trying to capture the creamy texture.

I'm pretty sure you could just throw in whatever seasonings, cheese, butter, etc. that you want.  I used a 4:1 water to polenta ratio and used Bob's Red Mill Brand polenta.  I thought it would take a while, so I put it in the rice cooker, flipped the switch to cook, and didn't check it for probably half and hour.  It had already finished cooking and switched to "warm," and I think it had been done for a little while.  But I don't think there's any harm in letting it stay in warm mode, making this a perfectly flexible side dish.  The parmesan rinds imparted a nice flavor... I learned a trick at some point to save the rinds from wedges of hard parmesan cheese after I've grated the gratable parts for topping pasta and other things... just throw the rinds in a ziploc and keep them in the freezer.  Then add them to risottos, soups, and apparently polenta for extra flavor.

We ate the polenta with ratatouille.  It is based on a Cook's Illustrated method and recipe.  I just discovered Cook's Illustrated.  The website and magazine are by paid  subscription only, but I really like it and think it's worthwhile.  I love their emphasis on methods and explanations of why things happen as they do in a recipe.  They approach cooking scientifically.  I changed the recipe just enough to not feel bad putting it up here, but really the awesome method not at all my own.  I used to make ratatouille just by kind of sauteeing everything together, and usually using canned tomatoes.  The CI method of roasting the eggplant and zucchini first makes a much chunkier stew than I used to make, and I think that's a good thing, given my predilection towards vegetarian dishes with texture.  So I think I'll stick with this method, it's still infinitely adaptable, and though it might take a little longer than a simple sautee, it's not any harder and more closely mirrors the traditional French preparation.  Also any combo of fresh basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary would only make the ratatouille better.  Add them if you have them!
I love eggplant even though it makes my mouth itch.

If anyone makes the rice cooker polenta and has thoughts on how it compares to a traditional polenta, I'd love to hear them.  I don't make polenta often enough to know for sure how it compares.

Rice cooker polenta
1 c. polenta
4 c. water
1 T. butter
2 T. grated parmesan or pecorino
1/2 t. salt
a few parmesan rinds, if available

1.  Combine in rice cooker.  Stir once.  Push down the switch to cook.  Come back when you're ready for it (at least 15-20 minutes, probably).

2 lbs. eggplant, cut up in 1" chunks
2 medium zuchinis (about 1-1.5 lbs), also cut up in 1" chunks
About 4 T. olive oil
5-6 small carrots (or 2-3 big ones), sliced into coins
2 bunches scallions or 1 medium or large onion, chopped (I would have used an onion but only had scallions)
2 large, very ripe tomatoes, cut up in 1-2" chunks
1/2 bunch of parsley, chopped
1 t. thyme, dried
ground black pepper

1.  Place eggplant in large colander set over large bowl; sprinkle with salt and toss.  Let eggplant stand for 1 to 3 hours.  Rinse eggplant well under running water to remove salt and spread in even layer on a clean towel.  Cover with another towel.  Press down firmly until eggplant is dry and feels firm and compressed.
2.  Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.
3.  Toss eggplant, zucchini, and 2 tablespoons oil together in large bowl, then divide evenly between prepared baking sheets, spreading in single layer on each.  Sprinkle with salt and roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until well-browned and tender, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through roasting time.
4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrot and onion (if using, if using scallion add in about 10 minutes after the carrot); reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes total.
5.  Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
6.  Add tomatoes and cook until they release their juices and begin to break down, about 5 minutes.
7.  Add roasted eggplant and zucchini, stirring gently but thoroughly to combine, and cook until just heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley and thyme; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve over polenta.

PS - I would be remiss in not thanking Grant Family Farms for the incredible late season zukes, eggplant, and tomatoes.  SO good!!

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Kohlrabi puree

    Wow, I am so backed up on posts.  I have about four I want to put up.  Oh well, if I ever want to graduate I might need to not do everything I want to do, but I'll at least try to get my favorites up here.  

    Kohlrabi has really grown on me.  I mentioned not too long ago that I was proud of myself for doing something with kohlrabi besides quick pickles.  Well, here's another kohlrabi recipe!  I think this is my favorite kohlrabi so far.  It could be classified as comfort food for sure - especially when served with a nice over-easy egg on top, some good whole grain bread (this one was a free sample from our CSA hoping to sell more bread shares; it was great but I don't think we'd eat it all), and a nice little salad on the side (tomatoes, mint from the garden, balsamic and olive oil).

    4 kohlrabi bulbs
    1-2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced

    1 handful parsley
    a few T. cream

    salt and pepper to taste

    1. Peel the kohlrabi, and cut the bulbs into ~1" chunks.
    2. Boil some salted water, and add the kohlrabi. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
    3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until somewhat caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Lower the heat, add the garlic and cook another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    4. Drain the kohlrabi.  Put kohlrabi, onions, and everything else in the bowl of a food processor.  Purée until smooth.

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Split pea soup with potatoes and dill

    Wow!  This might be one of my favorite recipes that I've posted yet.  As I started describing in the last post, this soup was born because I just wanted to cook all the veggies in my fridge at the same time and couldn't focus on one thing.  The potatoes and dill were just begging to be cooked, and with the first chill of fall, they ended up in soup.  I didn't know exactly where it was going while I was making it (so unfortunately, the amount on the liquids and potatoes might be a little off, cause I didn't measure, but they're close.  You'll notice copious tilde use in the ingredient list.)  The flavors are really great, so I encourage you to make this one, especially if you have good potatoes, dill, and parsley hanging around.  It works best if you are completely distracted by cooking other things.

    Makes about 1 gallon of soup (8 big servings)

    1 T. olive oil
    1/2 large onion, diced
    ~3 qts. water
    1 lb. of yellow split peas (green would be okay too)
    ~2 bay leaves
    ~1 T. Better than Bouillon veggie base 
    ~1/2 lb. small Yukon gold potatoes, cut up in bite sized pieces (other kinds would be okay, but I LOVED the creamy sweetness of the Yukes)
    ~1/2 bunch parsley
    ~4-5 T. fresh dill
    ~1 c. buttermilk
    Salt to taste
    optional: chopped chives or green onion to garnish and for extra flavors

    1.  Heat olive oil over medium, add in the onion and sautee till soft and just starting to brown (6-8 minutes or so). 
    2.  Add water, split peas, bay leaves, BTB.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.  Cook for ~15 minutes.  
    3.  Add the potatoes.  Continue to simmer for about another 30 minutes.  Check occasionally towards the end.  You don't want to cook it for so long that the potatoes start to disintegrate.
    4.  While simmering, chop up the parsley and dill; I used the food processor to get it quite small, but process the two separately so you can add the right amount of dill for your liking. 
    5.  When the soup is done, stir in the parsley, dill, and buttermilk.  Go easy on these and taste as you go.  You don't want the dill to be overpowering (and I think people have pretty different levels of dill tolerance, I tend to prefer it on the light side), but you definitely want to taste it.  For the buttermilk, I would suggest that you don't even want to really be able to identify it.  Using just a small amount - a cup or so (compared to the 3 qts water) - gives the soup a creamy body and a very slight tang, but I wouldn't describe it as sour or acidic at all.  6.  Add some salt if necessary (for once, I think I didn't add any extra at all!).  Serve with chives or green onions if desired.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Summer rice and veggies (on the first day of fall)

    Because we had such a cold spring this year, what I think of as typical summer fruits and veggies - tomatoes, peppers, corn - were pretty late up at Grant Family Farms.  But just in the last two or three weeks, we're finally getting a summer bounty! 
    Left - apple and kohlrabi salad; Right - rice and summer veggies; Back - sauteed chard.

    I really was having trouble deciding what to make for dinner tonight.  Almost all the veggies in the fridge were very inviting so I felt pulled in different directions.  Unable to make a decision, I ended up making four things that I'm not going to pretend have any sort of theme: rice and summer veggies, an apple and kohlrabi salad, sauteed chard w/ garlic, and a split pea soup that I might put in a separate post.  The soup we didn't have for dinner; I made that for future lunches (although I might go have some right now...).  Despite a bit of discordance, the unifying theme is of course seasonal produce (whatever that means given our crazy seasons), so it ended up working out just fine.  The rice and veggies I loved, the salad I liked a lot, so I'll put the recipe here but I don't think it deserves its own post.  I am proud of myself for finding a tasty way to use raw kohlrabi.  Up till now I've just be pickling it or putting it in a soup.

    Summer rice and veggies (serves 3-4)

    1 c. uncooked rice (brown basmati is nice)
    6-8 green chiles (Hatch, anaheim, etc)
    3 ears of corn
    1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped
    1 T. butter
    Salt and pepper
    2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved, if desired
    edamame (optional)

    1.  Cook the rice according to directions with a little salt.
    2.  Preheat a grill or broiler.  Place the chiles near the heat source.  Cook until the skin is blistered, not completely blackened (if it's very black the flesh is probably burned).  It should take maybe 5 minutes.  Flip over and repeat.  Once blistered on both sides, put in a zip-lock, tupperware, or bowl with saran wrap, and let sit for at least 10 minutes.  Then you should be able to get the skins off; a bowl of water helps.  Remove skins and seeds.  Chop the roasted chiles.
    3.  Cut the kernels off the corn cobs.
    4.  Cook the kernels over medium-high heat in a dry skillet or sautee pan.  Allow them to char (brown) a bit, stirring as needed.
    5.  When the rice is done, stir together the rice, chopped chiles, cilantro, butter, and season with salt and pepper.
    6.  Assemble on plate: rice mixture, topped with corn, topped with tomatoes.  I happened to have some leftover edamame, that I forgot about till after I took the picture, but that seemed to go well too, made it succotash-like!  Talk about a patchwork dinner...

    Apple and kohlrabi salad (serves 4-6)

    1 small kohlrabi
    1 very large apple or 2 small to normal sized apples
    Juice of 1/2 lemon
    **Ribs from one fennel bulb - optional, see note
    1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
    2 t. sesame oil
    salt and pepper

    1. Peel the kohlrabi.  Slice as thinly as possible into strips that are maybe an inch by half an inch.
    2.  Cut the apple into bite size chunks.  Throw into a bowl with the kohlrabi.
    3.  Squeeze the lemon juice onto the salad, toss.  Do this right after step 2 to prevent oxidation.
    4.  Add in the optional fennel, cilantro and sesame oil, toss, and season to taste!

    **Note on the fennel - the fennel we got in the CSA is really weird.  Instead of a big bulb that you could just chop up like an onion, it was composed of a thick, VERY fibrous, inedible (found that out the hard way) stem, surrounded by relatively thin layers of edible fennel bulb.  So what looked like a big old fennel actually only yielded a small amount of edible fennel.  I broke off the edible layers like ribs of celery and sliced them across the grain.  It probably only yielded about 3 T. of sliced fennel ribs.  It tasted nice, but you could certainly skip it.  And it's strong when it's raw, so if you do incorporate it, be careful not to overload.

    Good leftovers = awesome sandwiches and salads

    This one is going to be short and sweet.  I just wanted to express my love for an interesting sandwich.  When you have good leftovers in the fridge, good sandwiches (and wraps, and salads) just happen, naturally.  My dinner wrap tonight:
    -Whole wheat tortilla
    -Cream cheese
    -Leftover grated raw beet and carrot salad that was similar to one I posted (had some cucumbers in it too this time.... can't remember what else)
    -Zucchini pickles made according to this recipe, but with half the sugar (I had followed the recipe exactly another time, and found the pickles too sweet).
    -Fresh CSA lettuce

    My lunch salad earlier:
    -Fresh CSA lettuce
    -Sweet corn quickly steamed and cut off the cob
    -Kohlrabi pickles (love this recipe, have made it a lot)
    -Some dill and green onions
    -Smoked salmon  -  this is a tasty product from a Colorado company.  There's so many conflicting reports about the sustainability and healthfulness of farmed salmon... from what I can gather, it really depends on the operation.  And usually, the consumer can't really figure much out about the fish farm where the product came from.  Some are better than others in terms of what kind of feed they give the fish (veg/grain based versus fish based - a veg/grain based feed obviously has less impact on fishery depletion), impact on the water body, PCB levels in the final product.  So in the end farmed salmon is not something I'll eat often (and I'll definitely go for a wild-caught Pacific salmon when I can - that one I'm pretty sure is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's good list), but also not something I will completely shun.  This particular company's website does little to make me think they focus much on sustainability when buying their fish, which they then smoke and package.)

    Whoops, that was supposed to be short, but I got sucked into thinking about  fishery sustainability and the pros and cons of aquaculture again.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Bun' cha ca' (Vietnamese fish and noodle dish)

    This recipe is from Thuy, Tin's mom.  It's quite easy, healthy, and above all, tasty.  A lot of the dishes we order at Vietnamese restaurants are somewhat heavy - either in a creamy sauce or friend.  But in this dish, the catfish is in a light marinade and grilled, and the flavors come from herbs and nuoc mam', the typical fish sauce based dipping sauce.  Most of the ingredients should be available at a well-stocked grocery store - the King Soopers near us has everything except the galangal.  Galangal is a root that looks like ginger, but is not as spicy.
    There are 5 components to the dish: rice noodles, grilled catfish, sauteed onions and dill, and finally the toppings: nuoc mam' and peanuts.  First, here is the full list of ingredients, separated out by component.  This is about the right amount for 6 people.

    1 package thin rice noodles (vermicelli, something that looks like this, 1 pound or 500 g)

    4 fillets of catfish (catfish seems to vary dramatically in size, you want about 2 pounds for 6 people)
    1 t. turmeric
    1/2 inch grated or finely minced galangal (if you can't find any, you could use a smaller amount of ginger or a squeeze of lemon or lime juice - it'll be a little different but that's okay) 
    1 T. olive oil

    1 large yellow onion
    1 large bunch fresh dill

    1 T. lemon juice
    2 T. sugar
    2 T. concentrated nuoc mam' (we have the brand second from the left in this photo)
    4 T. water

    Roasted unsalted peanuts, slightly crushed

    1.  Start with the catfish: slice the fillets into pieces that are about 1.5 - 2 inches by 4 - 5 inches... this doesn't need to be exact, but try to make the pieces relatively uniform so they cook evenly.
    2.  Place the fish in a zip-lock bag with the turmeric, galangal and olive oil and marinate for 1 hour.
    3.  While it's marinating, cut up the onions and dill, prepare the nuoc mam', and put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the noodles.   Slice the onion very thinly, and set aside.  Separate the fronds of the dill from the thick stems and slice into 1 inch pieces; set aside separately.
    4.  For the nuoc mam', combine the lemon juice, sugar, concentrated nuoc mam', and water in jar and shake.
    5.  Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions.
    6.  Heat a little olive oil, and sautee the onions until they are softened.  Add the dill and stir for about a minute more, allowing the dill to wilt.
    7.  Pre-heat a grill (or broiler), and once the catfish is done marinating, place the pieces on the grill and watch closely.  Depending on how thick the pieces are and how hot your grill is, it may only take a few minutes per side.
    8.  Serve!  Put some noodles in your bowl, followed by a piece of fish (or two), veggies, peanuts, and a few spoonfuls of nuoc mam'.

    Okonomiyaki (Japanese style savory pancakes)

    I can't believe I've been eating so much cabbage all summer and only just now remembered about okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki was one of the most memorable things I ate when I went to Japan in 2002 - it's a pancake-like dish that is chock full of veggies and is served with a sweet BBQ-like sauce. It's a dish that's more informal, family fare, and it's not served in fancy restaurants... or Japanese restaurants in the U.S. for that matter.
    Okonomiyaki with tonkatsu sauce, mayonnaise, and edamame

    There's endless experiments and tweaks you could make... I'm pretty sure as long as I'm getting cabbage in the CSA I will be making this, and I will definitely try different veggies, flours, and I will try throwing some seafood in them at some point. But for now, here's a pretty basic version... I read/watched a few recipes out there (here, here, and best of all, here - just stumbled upon it but I love this show!!!) but ended up mostly just going by feel. The atypical parts of it are that I used half buckwheat flour - which I think worked great - and there's some Rice Krispies in there too cause some recipes call for tenkasu, and I didn't have any. I couldn't detect any Krispi-ness, I guess they don't quite hold up as well as tenkasu. For the sauce, I was missing about half the ingredients listed here so I just played it by ear and added stuff till it tasted delicious.

    Also, here's the cabbage I used:

    Funny looking, huh? I didn't know what it was called, so after a little googling I learned it's alternatively called "sweetheart cabbage," "caraflex cabbage," as well as my first guess, "pointy cabbage." It's milder and sweeter than normal green cabbage - I really like it and I think this is just about a perfect application for it since it doesn't get fully cooked. There were absolutely no bitter or sulfury tastes that you sometimes get with green cabbage.

    Okonomiyaki - serves 2

    1/4 c. ketchp
    1.5 T. miso
    2 T. mirin
    1 clove garlic, minced finely
    about 2 t. ginger, minced finely
    1 t. hoisin sauce
    A splash of vinegar (I used a chive flavored one, but any relatively neutral one would do)
    A splash of Sriracha or hot sauce

    1. Combine everything and simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.

    0.25 c. all-purpose flour
    0.25 c. buckwheat flour
    0.25 c. plus 1-2 T. vegetable stock - I diluted Better Thank Bouillion veggie stock base in some corn stock I made earlier this week. (Corn stock is made by just simmering water to cover a couple of corn cobs from which you've removed the kernels - I'll be using the rest for some corn chowder probably!)
    1 egg
    About 1/3 lb. cabbage (about 1/3 of a pointy cabbage), roughly chopped
    3 T. green onions, chopped
    1 T. ginger, finely chopped
    1 small handful Rice Krispies
    peanut oil

    Serve with:
    Furikake, nori or other seaweed, ripped apart if necessary, bonito flakes, bacon...
    Edamame on the side (frozen, preferably in shells, cooked according to package directions)

    1. Mix together the flours and the stock - use enough stock to make a very thick mixture. Then mix in the eggs.
    2. Combine the cabbage, onions, and ginger, pour the flour mixture over the veggies, and lightly toss. Volume-wise, there's really more cabbage than batter, as you can see in the picture of it while it was cooking. If you want the ratio more in favor of bready goodness, you could just use less cabbage.
    3. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high. Oil it a little. Then pour the batter onto the griddle into two large, thick pancakes. You might think that it's too loose and will fall apart, but have faith. Use a spoon to shape the pancakes, and then cook for 4-6 minutes. Flip, and cook another 4 minutes or so.
    After shaping, before flipping.
    After flipping - nicely browned!

    To serve, make an artsy grid of the okonomiyaki sauce vertically, and lines of mayonnaise horizontally. I tore up some nori sheets to put on top, and some edamame on the side (which I swear is not as good when they are out of the shells, but that's what I had!).  P.S - can you tell the pictures look different?  I got a new camera!  The cabbage pic was taken with the old one, the rest with the new.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Peach, cucumber, black bean salad/salsa

    This one might sound familiar... at first I was going to title it "peach and cucumber salad," but being different by only one word from the previous post is unacceptable. So I aggrandized it. Also I realize every August post is a salad. But that's how it's supposed to be in the summer right? In reality, this salad is totally different, even from the previous peach salad. And, it would be just as great as a salsa to serve with chips, over fish or chicken, in a burrito, you name it. I would just recommend chopping everything a bit smaller if you are going to dip into it. I'm going to give you recipes for the full menu, although the salad was really the winner on the plate. The menu:
    ~Peach, cucumber, black bean salad
    ~Shredded cabbage w/lemon and cilantro
    ~Sliced raw beets w/lemon and chile

    Peach, cucumber, black bean salad
    3 peaches, chopped
    1 cucumber (medium to large sized), half-peeled (leave alternating stripes of peel) and chopped
    2 green onions, chopped
    2 radishes, thinly sliced
    1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
    1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
    1/2 t. salt or to taste
    Zest of one lime
    Juice of one lime and one lemon (I probably would have used 2-3 limes instead of 1 lemon and 1 lime, but I only had 1 lime)
    2 squeezes of honey
    2-3 T. canned chipotles in adobo, very finely chopped
    1 T. olive oil
    Optional: shredded cabbage

    1. Combine all the chopped things together, as well as the beans.
    2. Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk: salt, lime zest, juices, honey, chipotles, olive oil. My measure on the chipotles is approximate - they have a little heat, so adjust to your liking. When I open a can I put the rest in the freezer and then use a knife to cut off however much I want from the frozen chipotle block. Then I microwave it, and I chop it finely enough so that it's almost a liquid consistency.
    3. Toss dressing with the fruit mixture, let stand for 20 minutes before serving. Serve on top of or next to a bed of cabbage if you like, or even better, citrusy-cilantro-y cabbage (see below).

    Shredded cabbage w/lemon and cilantro
    Green cabbage, sliced very thinly (I used about 1/3 a head)
    Juice of 1 lemon
    1 T. chopped cilantro
    One squeeze/glug/choose-your-verb-inspired-measure of olive oil

    1. Toss them all together. Season.

    Sliced raw beets w/lemon and chile
    , a recipe from The Kitchn.
    2 large beets, sliced as thinly as possible
    Juice of 1 lemon
    A few shakes good quality chili powder (discussed here)

    1. Toss them all together.

    Quesadillas - don't need a recipe for these - but I like a simple white Vermont cheddar (mmmm Cabot) on corn tortillas.

    The green stuff you can see in the picture (on top of the quesadilla) is a chutney I made to go with some saag paneer a week or two ago ... it was loosely based on this recipe, but I don't remember exactly what went into it.

    Some of the things in tonight's dinner came straight from today's haul of the CSA. I thought it might be fun (for me at least) to write down what all the things in one week's CSA went into. And this was a particularly good-looking and large haul (which was quite interesting to bike home with), so I set it up for a photo shoot. Keep an eye out for that in a coming post.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Peach and tomato salad

    I saw two recipes in one day for salads featuring peaches and tomatoes. One was here (via Saveur) and the second was from a cookbook I got for my birthday from Andy's parents: Fast, Fresh, and Green by Susie Middleton. The flavor combination struck me as a little strange, but I've certainly had both tomatoes and peaches alone in caprese salad type dishes, so they're probably good together, right? And since I had some awesome tomatoes and some awesome peaches, I decided to give it a whirl with whatever else I had in the kitchen. I think this would be great with some fresh mozzarella next time. Would also be good with basil, that's what the original recipes called for, but is not what I had.

    We had this last night with some grilled chicken sausage and zuchinni, and a potato, pea, and mint salad with a yogurt-mayo-lime dressing that was also from Middleton's book. Yum.

    Juice of one lime
    1 t. soy sauce
    2 t. balsamic vinegar
    2 t. white or rose wine
    2 T. olive oil
    2 amazing (large) tomatoes (or equivalent of small or cherry tomatoes), chopped
    2 amazing peaches, chopped (you can remove the skins if you want, I did not)
    0.25 c. parsley, chopped
    0.25 c. mint, chopped
    Freshly ground pepper

    1. Shake or whisk together the dressing ingredients
    2. Toss with tomatoes, peaches, and herbs.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Mint-cilantro quinoa salad

    This is a particularly good, very herby variation on my framework summer grain salad. I probably mentioned it on that initial post, but a recipe like this is my go-to for any summer potluck or barbeque. Especially when it’s a barbeque-centric potluck cause although there are tons of great vegetarian grillables (and BBQ tofu is a favorite of mine), I don’t love a lot of more typical barbeque fare: meats, veggie burgers, potato salad, etc. I really try to avoid store bought veggie burgers when I can (homemade is another story).

    I made this particular salad a while ago and don’t have any pictures, but you can guess what it would look like. This recipe makes A LOT.

    3 c. quinoa (uncooked)
    1 bunch cilantro
    about 1 c. mint leaves
    2 bunches scallions
    1-2 packets sun dried tomatoes
    8 ozs. sugar snap peas
    8 ozs. feta cheese
    Juice of 5-6 lemons
    Olive oil to taste
    Salt and pepper
    Optional: lettuce, and nice chopped romaine would be great

    1. Rinse (if necessary) and cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
    2. Roughly chop cilantro (stems okay), mint (no stems), scallions, sun dried tomatoes, and peas. Put in serving bowl.
    3. Cube feta cheese, add to veggies.
    4. Juice the lemons and mix together with about 0.5 c. of olive oil.
    5. Toss quinoa and veggie-feta mixture with the dressing. Add salt and pepper, and more olive oil and lemon juice if desired.
    6. Serve on its own or over some fresh lettuce. It’s really good on some very crisp chopped romaine.

    Aioli-dressed cole slaw

    The CSA has been giving us a cabbage a week lately, which is about a cabbage a week more than I would normally eat. I like cabbage just not quite enough that I am super inspired every time I see it. And I don't often buy it in the grocery store. But the point of the CSA is to eat seasonally and locally, so instead of relying on my tried and true cabbage preparations (like this one and this one), I looked for outside inspiration. Specifically, I sought the advice of high school kid from Pennsylvania. It's kinda funny/weird, but I really like this kid's blog, Foodie at 15 (now 17). I love his passion for cooking, curiosity about methods and ingredients, and the fact that he is not averse to using candy corn as an ingredient. It's a nice voice in the sometimes snooty world of self-righteous foodies.

    Anyway, the other day he was doing a "live chat" on the website of a WHYY, Philadelphia public radio, cooking show. So I decided to ask him about my cabbage Here's the "transcript":

    So I decided to take the advice of my favorite not-so-celebrity chef, just for kicks, and it was pretty good. Mayonnaise and aioli are really pretty easy to make in a blender or food processor, and a food processor makes cutting the veg a snap. And while I still wouldn't say cole slaw is one of my favorite dishes, a homemade sauce is a vast improvement on the original. Here's the recipe, but keep in mind that the amounts of the vegetables is completely tunable to your whims, this is just what I used.

    Ingredients, slaw:
    1 to 1.5 heads of green cabbage
    3 large carrots
    4 small turnips
    1 bunch parsley

    3 cloves garlic
    4 egg yolks
    4 T. lemon juice
    1/4 t. dry mustard
    a small squeeze yellow or dijon mustard
    0.5 c. olive oil
    0.5 c. neutral oil (vegetable or canola)

    1. Prepare vegetables. I used the slicing attachment for most of the cabbage (I think it gets a little too texture-less and watery if you use the grating attachment), the grating attachment for the carrots and turnips, and the normal blade for chopping the parsley. No need to clean the work bowl in between vegetables or before the next step...
    For the dressing:
    2. Chop the garlic in the food processor till it's quite fine. Then add the yolks, lemon juice, and mustards and process till combined.
    3. Combine the two oils in a measuring cup. With the processor processing, pour in the oils in a slow, steady stream. This should take almost a minute.
    4. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and a little extra lemon if you feel it's necessary.
    5. Toss every thing together, add a little more salt and pepper if you like.

    PS - my posts have been slowing down, eh? I have 8-10 recipes scrawled out on paper and may get around to posting them. I'll at least try to post the better ones. We'll see.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Citrus and grated beet salad

    There's lots of recipes out there for raw, grated beet salad. I don't see how you can go wrong with any of them. They're all super easy, fast, healthy, and tasty. I think the tastes in raw beets go really well with citrus, especially oranges. And this salad was really pretty! I had one yellow beet and one red and white striped beet. Grated together they looked like a party. The picture here doesn't really do justice.

    I had been planning on putting some chunks of feta in the salad. But then decided against it in favor of just serving it aside some plain cheddar cheese quesadillas on corn tortillas. I'd also been planning on putting it atop some super fresh, tasty lettuce from the CSA, but in my excitement over the beets, I forgot. I think the salad would be good with cheese in it (what's not?), but actually, the clean, fresh taste of the other ingredients really makes it great without.

    A side note - I had forgotten about the pictures I took of 5-green saag paneer and poached fish with lettuce sauce. I just found the pictures on Andy's camera, so those posts are updated with pictures now.

    2 medium to large beets (get two different colors if possible!)
    2 oranges
    1 lime
    2 T. olive oil
    1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
    1/2 to 1 serrano pepper (or jalepeno, serranos are a little spicier), seeds discarded and chopped very finely
    1/3 c. roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
    salt and pepper to taste
    sliced avocado (optional)

    1. Peel and grate beets (I used the food processor for the grating.)
    2. Juice ONE of the oranges, and the lime. Toss the beets with the juices and olive oil.
    3. Peel and cut up the other orange. Toss the beet mixture together with the orange, cilantro, chili pepper, and sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Season with S&P to taste and serve with some sliced avocado on top!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Five-green saag paneer

    8/3/10 update - new photo (not a good one though, ha!)

    This is based off of a traditional saag paneer recipe from Dance of the Spices by Laxmi Hiremath. "Paneer" is Indian style white cheese, and it's about the most basic cheese you can make. It's really pretty easy, just requires a little planning. It's similar to cottage or ricotta cheese, except that you press out water until it's rather solid, and then cut it into chunks for use in recipes. "Saag" refers to the spinach sauce that the paneer is in. I've made this so many times I feel like it's kind of taken on a life of its own, especially with the CSA coming in strong in the greens category. Saag paneer is basically my catch-all dish to use up any kind of greens, from lettuce to kale, even the radish and beet tops that you might be tempted to just toss (yes! you can eat them!).

    A few specifics on the ingredients called for - I'm pretty sure almost any combo of greens would work. So really you should use the ends of whatever you have! Heck, you could even throw in some broccoli or cauliflower probably. But I do like keeping spinach the predominant one just to keep tradition somewhere in the mix. This is a good use of the outer lettuce leaves that are a bit tougher, especially on a head of Romaine. For the paneer, steps 6 and 7 have ** next to them, because I've done very different times for those steps, and it's always worked. I've let it drain in the sink over night, I've pressed it for only 1 hour... last time I made this I skipped the draining over the sink part, only pressed it for maybe 1.5 hours, and it was ready for dinner that night, no foresight required. So bottom line, make the cheese fit your schedule and it'll be fine.

    1/2 gallon whole milk
    4 c. (1 quart) 2% milk
    3 c. buttermilk

    1. In a very large saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. This will take a while. Stir occasionally.
    2. When it just gets to a simmer, add the buttermilk and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the curds have separated from the whey. The whey should be pretty clear when this process is done. It will only take a few minutes. This is when it's easiest for the curds to burn, so make sure you are stirring.
    3. Turn off the heat, let sit for about 15 minutes.
    4. Line a large colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth, with enough excess so that you'll be able to gather the corners after straining. Pour the mixture slowly through the cheesecloth.
    5. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth, and twist/tie up with kitchen twine. Use the twine to suspend the cheese bundle from a faucet.
    **6. Let the cheese drain into the sink for 3 hours.
    **7. Place an upside down small saucer or salad plate on top of a dinner plate or bowl. Place the bundle on the inverted plate. Put something heavy on top of the bundle. You may need to arrange other random heavy things around this setup so the first heavy thing does not fall down. I usually put my cast iron dutch oven atop the cheese, push the setup into a corner and then balance the dutch oven with two heavy canisters. This is probably the hardest part of the process. Let it stand like this for 2-3 hours.
    8. Unwrap and slice for immediate use or store in the fridge. I like my slices about 2" by 1" by 0.5".

    About 6 c. packed greens - I probably used about 0.5 c. radish greens, 1 c. ugly Romaine lettuce, 1 c. beet greens, 1 c. kale, and 3 c. spinach.
    1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
    8 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
    3-5 serrano chilis, de-seeded and cut into a few chunks.
    about 1 c. water
    2-4 T. butter
    1 small-medium onion, grated (grate this in the food processor first, before starting the saag)
    1 t. ground cumin
    1/2 t. turmeric
    black pepper
    1 t. salt
    1-2 t. sugar (optional)
    about 1/2 c. heavy cream (optional)
    paneer (recipe above, sliced)
    shelled pistachios or pine nuts (optional)

    1. Place the greens and 1/2 c. water in a very large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high with a cover. Stir a few times until the greens are very wilted; 6-8 minutes.
    2. While the greens are steaming, ready a big bowl of ice water. Transfer the greens to the ice water when they are done steaming. Let sit for at least 5 min.
    3. While the greens are steaming and chilling, add the ginger, garlic, chilis, and about 1/2 c. of the ice water (try to avoid the ice cubes) to the work bowl of the food processor or blender. Blend until these ginger, garlic, and chilies are well-chopped.
    4. Squeeze some of the excess water out of the greens and add them to the work bowl.
    5. Process until everything is very smooth. You may need to add more cold water. It should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter... or maybe a thin hummus (having trouble making a better analogy here, sorry!).
    6. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion browns a bit.
    7. Add cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper and stir for 1 minute.
    8. Add the spinach mixture. Bring to a simmer. Add more water if necessary.
    9. Add in the paneer and warm it up. This is a good time to add the cream, if desired (I like it a lot more with cream, personally wouldn't skip it). Stir it in, then taste and adjust the seasonings - add the optional sugar (I again always throw in just a small amount), and if you want, more salt and pepper.
    10. Serve over jasmine, basmati, or (my favorite) brown basmati rice, with a sprinkling of pistachios or pine nuts on top and some Sriracha on the side.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Poached fish with Emerils lettuce sauce

    8/3/10 update - pictures! First one is before I put on the sauce, the second, after.

    I've been putting lettuce sauce on my lettuce. That's how much lettuce I have recently. I found this sauce recipe in a Serious Eats column, and it's based off of an Emeril Lagasse recipe. Again I'm kind of breaking my rule for only posting original recipes, but this was so good, and although the sauce recipe recommended serving it on poached fish, I experimented a little with that part of the recipe. The sauce really tastes like lettuce, which you might not think is good, but it's really a new (for me) thing! Turning a whole head of lettuce into a cup and a half of sauce - cool!

    Lettuce sauce
    - makes about 1.5 cups
    1 egg yolk
    1 small head of Boston Bibb lettuce, cleaned and roughly torn
    1 t. capers, rinsed
    juice of 1 lemon
    up to 1 small handful parsley
    2 green onions (whites and greens)
    Optional: 1 small clove garlic
    Optional: About 1-2 T. fresh basil or dill
    0.5 t. dijon mustard (don't be tempted to add any more, or it'll overwhelm the sauce. less would be fine too, but we're taking advantage of the natural emulsifiers in the mustard, put at least a drop in)
    1/2 cup olive oil
    Salt and pepper

    1. Combine everything EXCEPT the olive oil and S&P in the food processor. Process until smooth.
    2. While the machine is still running, slowly pour the oil through the feed tube.
    3. Season with S&P and chill. It's okay to use right away, but will thicken a little with some time in the fridge.

    Poached potatoes, radishes, and cod

    6 c. water
    1/3 c. white wine
    1.5 T. peppercorns
    3 California bay leaves
    2 t. salt
    2-4 potatoes (I used 4 medium red potatoes)
    1 bunch (6-10) radishes
    3 shallots
    1-1.5 lbs. cod fillets
    lemon slices and parsley for garnish

    1. Slice the potatoes, shallots, and radishes; I used the slicing blade on the food processor, so it was really quick!
    2. Combine in a very large pan everything except the fish and the garnish, cover.
    3. Bring to a boil.
    4. Reduce heat to medium-low, and place the fish fillets on top of the vegetables, submerged in the cooking liquid (you may need to make a little room for the fish.)
    5. Simmer for about 7 minutes with the lid on. My fillets were about an inch thick at the thickest, if yours are thinner, check on the fish after 5 minutes.

    Make a plate with more lettuce on the side, the veggies, the fish on top of the veggies, a generous amount of lettuce sauce on everything, and lemon and parsey on top of that.

    Variations: I think the sauce would also be great with some dill instead/in addition to the parsley. A number of root veggies could be used instead/in addition to what's listed: carrots, turnips, rutabaga, etc. Also I think cauliflower florets would be great in the poach. For the fish, cod works particularly well but I think tilapia, catfish, flounder, halibut would all be good.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Coconut carrot soup

    A quick and easy soup that - just needs some bread and salad on the side, maybe a dollop of yogurt on top.

    1 onion, roughly chopped
    5-6 large carrots, roughly chopped
    1 t. salt
    4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
    2 t. garam masala or curry powder
    1 t. turmeric
    1 pinch cinnamon
    1 qt. water
    1 can coconut milk
    2 handfuls of lettuce
    1 handful cilantro
    freshly ground black pepper
    optional: cayenne pepper

    1. Heat oil over medium-high
    2. Add the onions, carrots, and salt. Cook until onions are soft and everything is browning a little (8-10 min.).
    3. Add the spices and stir for another 2 min.
    4. Add the water and coconut milk, bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 min.
    5. Add the lettuce, simmer for another 5 minutes.
    6. Add the cilantro, blend with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. You can also leave it somewhat chunky, but I would suggest making the initial pieces smaller in that case.
    7. Season to taste with more salt, black pepper, cayenne.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Grilled romaine salad two ways

    It's certainly greens season at our CSA! We are getting lots and lots of lettuce, and last week, we started getting kale, green onions, beets, and kohlrabi (kohlrabi is a weird vegetable, I don't really love the taste of it raw or cooked, but I love it pickled, have made a few batches using this recipe) ... some other stuff I'm forgetting too.

    But anyway, grilling lettuce is really a nice twist on your standard salad. It gets a little smokey flavor to it and wilts a little, but is still crunchy. This makes it even easier to eat large quantities of lettuce, which is kind of necessary right now since we got 4 heads in the this week's delivery (and that's not counting the kale). It also requires using a knife, which I think is a good thing (as I recently noted.) When I say "hearts" of romaine, I mean to take off the outside layer or two of leaves - they are a little tougher, and usually a bit bruised and not as crunchy and falling off the head.

    So here's two recipes, made the first a few nights ago, and had it with a pasta dish with sardines similar to what I wrote about here, minus the fennel and raisins, plus some kale. Made the second tonight, had it with the same leftover pasta.

    Grilled romaine salad "Mediterranean" style - serves 2
    1 heart of romaine lettuce
    Olive oil
    About 6 canned or jarred artichoke heart quarters
    About 8 olives (nice ones, preferably, standard Kalamata do the trick)
    About 2 ozs. fresh mozzarella, cut into small bite-sized pieces
    1 tomato, chopped
    1 T. red wine vinegar
    Fresh ground pepper

    1. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium high.
    2. Prepare the lettuce as described in the commentary, then slice the head in half, length-wise. If there is a lot of excess in the root area, cut some off, but be sure to leave enough so the half-head stays intact.
    3. Rinse the lettuce, make sure the water goes in between the leaves. Gently fan out the leaves to some degree to make sure you get rid of the grit. Gently dry with a clean towel. It's okay if it's a little wet.
    4. Brush the cut sides of the half-heads with olive oil.
    5. Place on the grill, cut sides down, and grill for about 5 minutes. They should get a little wilted, and have grill marks on them. If some of the outer leaves get burned, that's fine, you can just get rid of them.
    6. In the meantime, combine the artichokes, olives, cheese cubes, tomato, and vinegar in a small bowl. Given the oil on the lettuce and that came with the artichokes, I didn't feel it needed much more, but hit it with some more olive oil if you wish!
    7. When the lettuce is done, top with the mixture and some fresh ground pepper. I think this is best served warm-room-temperature-ish.

    Grilled romaine salad with roasted beets and goat cheese - serves 2

    A handful of baby beets, or one larger beet (you may just want to roast as many as you have though and save them for something else!)
    Olive oil
    Salt and pepper
    1 heart of romaine lettuce
    Goat cheese to taste
    Optional: some toasted pine nuts or walnuts
    Balsamic vinegar

    1. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium high.
    2. Clean the beets and cut into bite sized pieces (slice in half if using baby beets).
    3. Put the beets on a square of aluminum foil, and add olive oil, some salt and pepper. Fold the foil into a packet - not too tight, give the beets some room. Throw the packet on the grill. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, to whatever level of doneness you like.
    4. When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins.
    5. Prepare and grill the lettuce as described above.
    6. Top the grilled lettuce with the beets, crumbles of goat cheese, and possibly some nuts or croutons. Splash on some balsamic vinegar right before serving, and some more olive oil if you desire.

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010

    Bean and chile posole

    Posole is Southwestern regional dish - usually, it's a stew with pork, chiles, and the posole itself. Posole is whole, dried corn kernels that have been soaked in lye (calcium hydroxide, so the solution has a high pH). It is the same stuff that is coarsely ground to make typical southern grits, or finely ground to make masa, the basis for corn tortillas. It's also called hominy, but seems to be labeled posole around here. I was looking for a picture to put up here, and in my googling and wikipedia-ing adventures, I learned that hominy is the Powhatan word for corn... the same word that is in Chickahominy, the river and Indian tribe near Williamsburg where Andy grew up. Chickahominy means "the people of coarse ground corn." I hadn't put the two together until just now - learning while blogging!

    But anyway, this is a not exactly vegetarian version of the dish. No pork, but I used chicken stock because I like the depth and body stock imparts to simple soups. The roasted chiles came from our farmers market (roasted on site in a giant propane powered rotating drum). I really liked the texture of the posole; they're chewy and hearty. I'll definitely be trying it in the future in other less traditional dishes. I haven't tried canned hominy, but I bet it would be good too.

    1 c. dried posole, available in the Mexican section of grocery stores in Colorado, also called hominy
    1 c. dried pinto beans (kidneys, black eyed peas, or black turtles would all work, canned would be just as good too)
    1 T. oil
    1 large onion
    4-5 medium carrots
    a pinch salt
    1 t. ground cumin
    8-10 cloves garlic
    32 oz. no salt added chicken stock (I use Kitchen Basics brand)
    10-14 roasted green chile peppers, peeled and chopped to some degree
    1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
    1/3 c. lime juice
    cilantro, chopped, to put on top
    hot sauce

    1. Soak the posole and beans overnight - fill water to about 2" over level. I put them in different pots, cause I wasn't sure if they would take the same amount of time to cook or not. I think this is a good idea cause although they took almost the same amount of time, I used the cooking liquid from the posole in the soup.
    2. The next day, bring the posole and bean to a simmer and cook till tender and appealing - this took about an hour 45 for me, but beans can be very fickle. You could also use the 90 minute method on the beans - wonder if it would work on the posole??
    3. In the meantime, heat the oil over medium and sautee the onions, carrots, salt, and cumin till they are lightly browned (6-8 min). Add in the garlic, stir for another 2-3 minutes.
    4. Add in the stock and stir to release all the stuff on the bottom of the pot. Add the chiles, tomatoes, beans (drained and rinsed), and posole (with cooking liquid). Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, till the tomatoes are cooked and it tastes good.
    5. Add lime juice, and then add water, salt, pepper, hot sauce to taste. Put some fresh chopped cilantro on top.

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Happy Father's Day Waffles

    This post is a little late, but I made waffle mix for my dad Frank and Andy's dad Buzz for Father's Day, and they asked for the recipe. So here it is! It is based off of this 101cookbooks recipe, but is a little different.

    We got a new waffle maker recently (a nice Belgian style model), and ever since I've been making lots of waffles. I think they might be the perfect food; the high surface area to volume ratio makes for ample browning reactions and maple syrup absorption sites. I love these waffles with maple syrup, fruit (had some pureed strawberries and whole blackberries on hand last time), and some plain yogurt on top. I've also had them with the amazing fig butter I made one time, also from a 101cookbooks recipe.

    1.5 T poppy seeds
    1 c. oat flour
    1/2 c. corn meal
    1/2 c. rye flour
    1-2 T. sugar
    1 T. baking powder
    scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/3 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
    2 c. buttermilk
    3 large eggs, whisked

    1. Preheat your waffle maker.
    2. Combine the dry ingredients.
    3. Melt the butter, cool a little, then whisk into the buttermilk.
    4. Whisk the eggs, then whisk into the butter-buttermilk.
    5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and lightly fold to combine. Do not over stir.
    6. Follow the waffle maker directions. I like to use a pretty high heat setting (mine goes up to 7 and I put it at 6), and let it go for a little longer after the beep.

    Addendum: on my waffle maker, I think this makes 5 or 6 waffles. They are definitely best eaten right away. They get a little soggy if they are sitting around. But they freeze and reheat pretty well. To serve after freezing, microwave for 25-35 seconds, then put in the toaster on a very low heat setting. In my toaster I can put each waffle quarter in one toast slot.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Grill-braised leeks and artichoke over wild rice with mushroom sauce and eggs

    Most of the recipes I post are vegetarian, and in general, I mostly eat vegetarian. I wrote a little about my reasons for doing so here – and could certainly expound upon some of those ideas even more. But the main reason why I mostly eat vegetarian is that I like it. In fact, I love it. I simply love veggies, herbs, grains, eggs, cheese, and nuts. However, the one part that can get a little old has to do with texture. Perhaps not even texture really – textural qualities and descriptors include chewy, tender, meaty, flaky… all of which can be achieved using ingredients from the grain, vegetable, legume, and dairy domains – it might be better described as food geometry - the shape, size, and layout of food on your plate. In simpler terms, I like a dish that requires using a knife. If you look at the cookbook that I single out as the cookbook that opened my eyes to the diversity of flavors in vegetarian cooking, the Moosewood Cookbook, nearly every dish can be eaten with a fork alone. Consider the vegetarian staples. Pastas, stir-fry, and soups use ingredients already processed into bite sized pieces. Quiches, omelets, and casseroles are delicate enough to only necessitate a fork. Pizza and sandwiches require only your hands. Lasagnas and anything stuffed come closer, but even still you could get away with a fork.

    So the bottom line is that sometimes I want a vegetarian meal that requires a knife and has a large focal point in the middle of the plate. And recently, I had half a bag of wild rice and a bunch of dried mushrooms in the pantry. I was tempted to make a nice soup or frittata using those ingredients as well as some leeks for a classic combination of flavors. But instead I opted for the “deconstructed” version (I feel terribly pretentious using that term – and I don’t even know if it’s the right word - but I think it suits the meal). What I mean by deconstructing is to keep things relatively large and whole and mix the flavors at the end, on your plate, to your desires. And the focal point ended up being the least likely of the players: the leeks. As well as some artichokes as I ended up cooking the same way as the leeks because there was a pretty big crowd over for dinner. So, the menu ended up being:
    -Grilled braised artichokes and leeks
    -Mushroom sauce
    -Wild rice
    -Poached eggs
    -Chicken sausages (on the grill)
    -No-knead bread I had started a day earlier and finished that morning

    Everything was really good, and unfortunately my photography skills don't really do it justice, especially because I'd already broken the egg.

    I will just give the recipes for the artichokes, leeks, and mushroom sauce since the rice was just according to the package and I’ve talked about poaching eggs before. I also ended up cutting the wild rice about 2:1 with brown basmati rice, again cause there was a crowd. The leek and artichoke recipes were to some degree inspired by an Alton Brown leek recipe, and a Mark Bittman artichoke recipe.

    Grilled braised artichokes and leeks
    1 T oil
    1 T butter
    4 large leeks
    3 artichokes
    about 2 cups broth or stock (I used BTB veggie stock)

    1. Preheat the grill to medium high.
    2. Melt the butter and combine with the oil.
    3. Trim away the green top of the leek, and then the outermost layer or two of the white part. We want to cut the leeks in half, long-ways, but we need to be careful to keep the layers together, yet still rinse between the layers. To do this, we're gonna keep most of the root area intact. So with a knife, just barely shave away the roots themselves, leaving the bottom of the leek round. Then, slice the leek in half, long-ways. Now rinse them well, the bottom of the leek should keep everything in place and allow you to pull apart the layers to a degree under running water to get the grit out. Leeks can often be really dirty, so this is important.
    4. Brush the cut sides with the oil/butter mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    5. Clean the artichokes: rinse them, then use scissors or kitchen shears to snip off the spiky parts. Then cut them in half vertically, and scoop out the hairy part. Marvel at how quickly the flesh oxidizes (turns a little brown), but don't worry this is okay. To slow down that process a little, brush with the oil/butter as soon as you're done scooping at the hairy part on each artichoke half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    6. Place all the leeks and artichokes on the grill, cut side down, and grill with the lid closed till a little caramelization and grill marks appear (5-8 minutes).
    7. Ready two BIG pieces (about 14" each) of heavy duty aluminum foil and place one over the over perpendicularly. You will use this to hold the veggies to complete the braising. Place 3 artichoke halves on top of the foil and fold the edges up around the chokes. Make sure it looks capable of holding liquid, and then pour in broth to about 3/4" deep. Fold together the ends of the foil to create a relatively tight pouch that will hold some steam. Repeat for the other three artichoke halves, and then all the leeks (they'll fit in one pouch).
    8. Return the three pouches to the grill, and cook for 15 minutes.
    9. Carefully check on the pouches after 15 minutes. Remove from the grill, open pouch carefully (watch out for steam), and see if the veggies are down. You want to be quite tender, a sharp knife should easily pierce the artichoke flesh (on the cut side), and the leeks should be very soft. If they're not, return to the grill, adding more stock if necessary (or water, if you're out of stock), and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

    Mushroom sauce (or simple saucy mushrooms)
    2-3 1.25 ounce packets of dried mushrooms - I used one oyster, one porcini, and one unidentified half packet from the depth of my pantry - may have been shitake.
    1 T. butter
    3 shallots, chopped rather small
    1 carton of white button mushrooms (the larger cartons at the store), sliced
    half and half to taste - about 1/2 c.
    leaves from 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme
    freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste (optional)

    1. Boil some water and pour over dried mushrooms. Break apart any very large dried mushrooms. Let them sit for 20-30 minutes in a bowl.
    2. Heat butter and cook shallots over medium for about 8-10 minutes, till they are thoroughly cooked and starting to brown.
    3. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook for another 8-10 minutes.
    4. Scoop the rehydrated mushrooms out and add them to the pan. Don't throw away the soaking water.
    5. Stir everything for a minute, and reduce heat to low, and add the half and half and thyme. Add some of the soaking liquid and salt and pepper as well, and cook a few more minutes till you've got a taste and consistency you like. If you'd like, stir in some parm, or just serve it at the table.

    At the table...
    Mix, or don't mix, the various pieces to your taste.

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Arugula and egg panzanella

    Panzanella is just a fancy name for a salad with about equal volumes of bread, tomatoes, and greens, with some other great stuff. This is the best salad I have made in a while. I don't often make it (a nice loaf of bread rarely makes it to "day-old" around here). But for some reason I really wanted some yesterday, so I bought a fresh loaf of bread and made the croutons in the oven. This combination has really strong flavors - sourdough, herbs, vinegar - with a little creaminess from the eggs and cheese - I think it's just about right. We had this on its own for dinner, but it would also be a good side dish for some grilled chicken, steak, or fish. See below for my favorite method of hard-boiling eggs.

    Ingredients - serves 4

    A third to a half a loaf of day old sourdough bread - sliced and left out to dry overnight, or dried in the oven.
    1/4 c. red wine vinegar
    3 T. olive oil
    1 t. spicy mustard
    Salt and pepper
    2-3 c. arugula (1/2 a package), coarsely chopped or ripped
    2-3 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/4 c. basil, sliced in a chiffonade (one small package from store)
    1/4 c. mint, sliced in a chiffonade or just chopped
    1 small shallot, diced
    ***2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
    About 10 thin slices of parmesan cheese, sliced with a carrot peeler

    1. Make the croutons. If the bread is not very stale/dry, dry slices in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes right on the rack. Then break the slices up into bite sized pieces.
    2. Whisk together oil, vinegar and mustard. Season with some salt and pepper.
    3. Prepare and combine arugula, tomatoes, basil, mint, and shallot in a serving bowl.
    4. Toss with the vinegrette.
    5. Add the bread and toss again.
    6. Put the egg slices on top. Peel the parmesan cheese right over the bowl.
    7. Serve immediately. If there are leftovers, the bread while not be crisp anymore, but it will still be good!

    ***To hard boil eggs
    Way too often, people really overcook their hard-boiled eggs. You might think you can't overcook a hard boiled egg, but that's not true. A properly cooked hard-boiled egg has a solid, but fragile white (not rubbery or chewy), and a soft yolk that is creamy, crumbly, but cohesive, and has little to no gray tint. An overcooked hard-boiled egg has a rubbery white, a chalky yolk, and a lot of gray tint on the yolk. I actually like my hard boiled eggs even a little less cooked that what I described - with a yolk that is a little gelatinous (sorry, that sounds gross, but I can't think of a better description). Here's how to achieve a good hard boiled egg.

    1. Put eggs in saucepan.
    2. Cover eggs by 1 inch with warm water.
    3. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 seconds.
    4. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan with a lid that fits. Let the eggs sit for:
    12-15 minutes for a traditional hard boiled egg (depending on the size)
    10 minutes for a gelatinous yolk (seriously, it's good)
    5. Immediately remove from the hot water and play in cold water with ice cubes. If the ice melts, add more.
    6. Once they're completely cool you can peel them or refrigerate for later use. To peel them, slide a spoon between the eggs and the shell while immersing the eggs under cool water.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Butternut and bean mole

    Well this recipe is sort of cheating, but it is good and original. One gripe I have with Mexican restaurants is that there is a rarely a vegetarian dish featuring mole sauce. If you're unfamiliar with mole (pronounced mo-lay) it is a thick sauce that usually has a mixture of chiles, cocoa powder, and cumin. It's delicious, but traditionally served with chicken which I generally don't order at restaurants. It also is pretty labor intensive and takes a while to cook. But not with a spice blend from Savory Spice shop. I tried their Mexican mole blend and improvised a vegetarian dish that was sort of based on the recipe card I picked up in the store for a chicken mole. It turned out really good.

    1 large butternut squash
    3 tomatillos, leaves removed and rinsed
    4 ozs. Savory Spice Shop's Mexican Mole Blend
    1.25 c. vegetable bouillon, or 1.25 c. water and 1.25 t. Better than Bouillion
    2 T. raisins
    1 onion, chopped
    1 green pepper, chopped
    1-2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
    2 c. cooked beans (I used some pintos I had cooked a while ago and froze, I think a can or two of pintos, blacks, or kidney would all work)
    corn tortillas for serving
    brown or white rice for serving

    1. Slice squash in half and remove seeds and skin. Cut up into 1/3 - 1/2 inch chunks. Heat a small amount of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium. Add squash chunks and cover, cover 5 min. Remove cover and crank up heat, stir frequently until cooked through, and crispy on the outside.
    2. Roast tomatillos under broiler until blistered and slightly blackened, about 10 minutes, flip halfway through. Set aside to cool.
    3. In small bowl, mix Savory Spice Shop’s Mexican Molé seasoning, 1/2 cup warm veggie bouillon into a smooth paste. In food processor or blender, pulse molé paste, raisins and tomatillos until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
    4. Heat olive oil in a Dutch over or pot over medium high heat. Add in onion, cook and stir for 3 min. Add in green pepper and jalapeno, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes, till the veggies are mostly cooked through.
    5. Reduce heat to medium, add mole paste, and sauté and stir for no more than 1-2 minutes. Add squash and rest of veggie bouillon. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 12 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
    6. Serve over brown rice and with corn tortillas. It's even better leftover the next day.