April 30, 2006

DINNER: April 29th-May 5th

Saturday: The cloudy weather called for Smoky Split Pea Soup, Quick Beer Bread from All New Joy of Cooking and Arugula Salad, to catch up on our recent dearth of vegetable consumption.

Sunday: Celebration Dinner for the partner who just won an award from his department. This calls for Fava Bean Crostini with Lemon and Pecorino from Bon Appetit April 2004, sadly not available on-line or I'd link to it, Warm Roasted Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Grapefruit, Avocado and Walnut Oil, a salad I've been tinkering with for years, cribbed from my one and only dinner at Chez Panisse, and Artichokes with Garlic-Thyme Dipping Oil.

Monday: Soyrizo and Potato Tacos adapted from Bayless's Mexico: One Plate at a Time, with Black Beans, Salsa, and Cabbage-Radish Salad

Tuesday: Pasta with Caramelized Fennel from Madison's Local Flavors

Wednesday: Stir Fry with Tofu, Veggies, Thai Red Curry Paste and Coconut Milk

Thursday: Spinach Salad with Broiled Red Onions, and Garbanzos with Popped Mustard Seeds, from Bishop's Year in A Vegetarian Kitchen, which has gone AWOL since our move. If I don't find it soon, I going to have buy another copy.

Friday: I'm going out for a celebration dinner with my fantastic Take Back the Night ladies.

Farmer's Market April 29th

After a very long two weeks with very few vegetables, I went kinda crazy at the market. 3 lbs of fava beans, two kinds of beets, broccoli, fennel, radishes, spinach, lok choy, cilantro, mint, green garlic, food for the fuzz and that gorgeous bunch of sweet peas, which are filling my whole house with their lovely scent. We also got our seventh(!) tomato plant, which has yet to be named because we don't know any names of Belgian descent. I'm having visions of eating tomatoes, and just tomatoes, all summer and my mouth is watering in anticipation.

April 28, 2006

Friday, Friday Part IV

The strange, the interesting, the hopefully delicious:

Heidi's riff on tiramasu

Clothilde's soupe aux orties

Molly's seriously dangerous-looking ricotta fritters (I just discovered Orangette and I have been gobbling up all of her archives)

David Chang's asparagus, minus the pork lard, via the NYT

Robin Robertson's pesto polenta with portobellos via Slashfood

April 27, 2006

Advice please!

So, my partner and I are going to Prague and Vienna in the end of June for about two weeks. I have never been to Europe and am so, so, so excited. However, I know so very little about either place. Does anyone out there have any information about either of these cities? I've heard that there are pickpockets and aggressive gypsies. Any other helpful tidbits? I know that they are both in heavy meat eating countries and that it will be difficult for us to avoid it. Any tips for that? Our trip to Mexico City a few years ago, yielded us a "sin carne" quesadilla that had pork in it, among many other interesting meals.

April 26, 2006

Lebovitz's Brownies Redux

Foolishly, I volunteered to bring something to a bake sale (scroll down a bit, under "Take Action Now") for the Women's Center and I needed something super quick to make that dirtied a minimal amount of dishes. I made these brownies again but without the nuts and cherries, and I liked them much more. I think that they were also slightly underbaked, which, yummy. While I was trying to devour every crumb, visions of cinnamon, ground chile and almonds fluttered across my internal eye. Next time, we shall see how these turn out with a Latin American flair.

April 25, 2006

RECIPE: Meredith's Slightly Healthier, Slightly Easier Lasagne

Mmm, lasagne. Delicious combination of pasta, tomato sauce, cheeses, fakey meat and tofu. Here's how I do it:

Procure: two cans of TJ's Tuscany tomato sauce (about 1 lb each), garlic, onions, soft tofu, 1 lb ricotta cheese, a large bunch of parsley, 2 eggs one lemon, Parmesan cheese, a bag of fakey meatballs, 1 lb mozzarella, and a 1 lb box of no-boil lasagne noodles.

First: Doctor up your sauce with sauteed onions, garlic, a few sprinkles of dried oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper for good measure.

Second: Break out your handy dandy food processor. Blend up your ricotta, soft tofu, parsley, lemon zest, as much Parmesan as your heart desires, salt and pepper. Dump out in a bowl, unless you have a monstrous processor, which could hold all of this. Mine cannot. Taste for salt, pepper and more cheese. Beat the eggs. Mix thoroughly with cheese-tofu mix.

Third: Defrost frozen"meat" balls in microwave. Cut into quarters. Grate or cut mozzarella into bits. Preheat oven to 350F.

Fourth: Cover a baking sheet in tin foil. You'll thank me later, promise. Put baking sheet in the bottom third of oven. Grease a huge glass dish. I use a 15x12x2 1/2 Pyrex. Pour a bit of sauce on the bottom to coat. Add a layer of the noodles. Put on a half of the cheese mixture, a half of the "meat" a third of the mozzarella. Pour on some more sauce. Layer with noodles going in the opposite direction from the first layer. Repeat layering of cheese-tofu, "meat" mozzarella and sauce. Layer with noodles going in the same direction as the first layer. Pour as much sauce as can fit over noodles. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over and more Parmesan, if you like. Put dish on top of baking sheet. Bake for one hour. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a green salad and some fantastic bread. Feeds a small army, a large dinner party or two people dinner for one week.

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April 22, 2006

DINNER: April 22nd-28th

Saturday: Vat of Black Bean Soup with Cilantro
Sunday: Ginormous Spinach Lasagne

Both are supposed to last us the week, I hope.

Farmer's Market April 22nd

We didn't get much this week because next week is another crazy-nutso activist week. Our "found" avocado is in the lower left corner, the first strawberries of the year (at least the first I was willing to buy), most likely the last blood oranges of the season and various herbs and food for the bun. Not shown, the three additions to our garden, Zeeba Neighba, Bebe, and Fraulein Hilde. Next week will be far more interesting, I promise.

April 20, 2006

Friday, Friday Parts II & III

Since I missed last week's collection of recipes from around the web, here's two weeks worth! Too bad I'm going to be pounding 500 wooden stakes into the ground and am not able to make very much this weekend. Maybe someone out there has some free time to make me:

The cutest little cookies I ever did see at Chocolate & Zucchini.

Banana cupcakes with candy bananas!

Brett's fried eggs in olive oil, maybe I do have some time to make these myself.

Vanessa's fantastic looking corn soup. I can't wait until summer to make some.

Halibut chowder with sugar snap peas or cold poached halibut with fennel-olive salad or halibut with pea shoots and herb butter.

Some very fancy Caesar Salad

Mark Bittman's Baby Artichokes with Potatoes Garlic, Olives and Shrimp (only available for a week, make a copy!)

Black lentil soup, mmmm

And while it's not exactly a recipe, one of the good students over at Insight from the Inside has some fascinating things to say about making lasagne with his dad.

Happy weekend!

RECIPE: Tagliatelle with Asparagus, Brown Butter and Almonds

Looks like browned butter with nuts is my new party trick. I'd been eyeing the tagliatelle at TJ's for a while and I caved and bought a package. We had some asparagus that the boy's mommy sent us home with that needed to be eaten. Here's what I did.

I think that I started off with a pound or so of fat spears. My new asparagus trick is to snap off the ends instead of cut them off. The spear seems to know which part is good for eating and which part is good for stock. Then the spears were cut into quarter lengths. Boil up some salted water, threw in 8oz of pasta. While cooking the pasta, 8 minutes only , not the 10-12 the instructions said, I melted about 4 TB butter in a saute pan and added about 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. I let the butter and nuts brown a bit before taking the pan off the heat and adding the zest of a Meyer lemon. I would have preferred a Eureka for its tartness, but one works with what one has. Also, how ridiculous is it that I'm complaining about having too many Meyer lemons? I am spoiled. 2 minutes before the pasta's done, I added the trimmed asparagus. Drain the pasta and veg together, threw back in the pot. Salted, peppered, buttered squirted with lemon, and Parmesan cheesed.

I loved the texture of the pasta, very satiny. I felt like I was eating ribbons. Delicious! I will definitely make again, probably with more butter and nuts.

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April 19, 2006

Sous Chef?

So, I am about to apply for a sous chef position. I'm nervous/excited about it. It's just on Fridays making dinner for 150-200 people. It's pretty decent pay and will hopefully be good experience for me. Wish me luck!

April 17, 2006

RECIPE: Easter Dinner Eggstravaganza!

After volunteering to make dessert for the boy's family's Easter supper, I ended up making the whole thing because I wormed my way into his mommy's kitchen, with her permission, of course. The best part is that we made it sans recipes (mostly) and in under two hours!

We had: Salmon Roasted on a Bed on Meyer Lemon, Brown Butter Orzo with Almonds and Dill, Steamed Asparagus and Broccoli and Homemade Ricotta with Balsamic Berries. Everything turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

For the Salmon: Preheat oven to 450F. Slice two large lemons (Meyer, if you've got them) very thinly and place half of the slices on a baking sheet. Rub a big piece salmon with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper on each side. Place salmon atop lemon slices. Put remaining lemon slices on top of fish. Bake until salmon is cooked through about 15-25 minutes depending on how big the piece of salmon is.

For orzo: Cook a pound of orzo in boiling salted water. While orzo is cooking, melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan. Add 3/4 cup slivered almonds. Cook until butter and nuts begin to brown. Drain pasta. Toss with butter, nuts, and 1/3 cup snipped dill. Salt and pepper. Add the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of a lemon.

For the Ricotta with Honey and Berries: Make ricotta. While ricotta is chilling, prep about 4 cups of assorted berries (we had strawberries, raspberries and blackberries). Toss fruit gently with 3 TB sugar and 3 TB balsamic vinegar. Let sit for 45 minutes. Taste for more sugar or vinegar. Mix drained ricotta with 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup of honey. Mix well. Taste for salt and more honey if desired. In a bowl serve a dollop of cheese with the berries. A sprig of mint on top would be pretty.

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April 12, 2006

Butterscotch Pudding

From Lebovitz's Ripe.

Eh. I followed the directions, I swear, and my sugar seized up and never melted. I was worried that it was going to scorch, so I added the cream because that mess wasn't ever going to bubble.

I think it called for too much cornstarch. Three tablespoons gave it a slightly gritty texture. I was frustrated with the recipe because it didn't state how hot the flame under the pot needed to be or how long the sugar had to cook before adding the cream. The boy liked it, but I know that there are better recipes out there. Pony up, y'all. I got a hankering for pudding.

Also, this will probably be my last post before hopping on a train. I'll be back on Sunday with a full report. Enjoy your springtime festivities everyone!

April 11, 2006

Comfort Food

Apparently, I am all about the comfort today.

I just realized how I have been steadily getting more and more stressed out, stretched out, short-tempered and not-too-pleasant-to-be-around, if I'm honest with myself. A lot of things are on my plate right now and I'm not handling them as well as I ought to. Recently, I bristled at an essay in one of the last books I read about the popularity of comfort food in the restaurant biz. The author stated that comfort food is easy; it's for children, not discriminating adults. Here is my response:

I disagree. Grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese are two of my favorite things. I don't eat them very often but when I do, I make sure it's worth it. No American cheese and white bread for me or the stuff from a blue box. I don't get them at restaurants either. No one else can make a grilled cheese sandwich with crusty cheese bits and slightly scorched bread just the way I like it. When I add some home made apple chutney, good bread and aged cheddar, it's pretty discriminating. And I highly doubt that most places would mix in a can of tuna and some frozen peas into my mac. By the way, isn't pasta con quatro formaggi just gourmet Italian M&C?

I'll admit that if I see mashed potatoes on a menu, I'm interested in what comes with it, even if I wasn't before. Sometimes, its presence is the deciding factor if I can't decide between what entrees I want. Granted, I'm not going to haute cuisine places or dropping $100 on dinner though either.

Every culture has it's "baby food" from mashed potatoes to polenta to congee to frijoles refritos. People like them because they taste good. Not every meal has to be a challenge, as the author whose name escapes me now, asserts. Sometimes all I want is a piece of cinnamon toast and some coffee milk both made by my mom in her sunny kitchen. One day, I'll hope to learn her just right combination of cinnamon, sugar, butter and bread.

Morning Ritual

Every morning, I stumble out of bed, fill my beautiful birthday flame red Le Creuset kettle with water and open up my tea cabinet to pick my poison. I have about twenty choices. Right now, I really like my Republic of Tea British Breakfast. The gloomy weather of late (it shouldn't be like this in April, weather gods!) makes sitting down with a hot cuppa and going through the paper seem especially cozy. Having this time in the morning to myself helps me face the day, get my priorities in order, my head on straight. It also feeds my anglophile tendencies. Even if I don't have time to have a proper breakfast, I try to make sure that I have time for tea. What daily ritual can you not be without?

April 09, 2006

Caramelized Apple Tart with Five-Spice Cream

Adapted from Local Flavors. We didn't have creme fraiche, so I made the version with cream instead. As I was mixing up the egg yolk and cream, I remembered reading somewhere about desserts made with Chinese Five Spice Powder, so I cracked open our jar of it and had a go. Our jar of five-spice included cinnamon, star anise, ginger, liquorice and white pepper. I think that its components vary based on its source.

I didn't like the tart too much at first, it was more cakey than anything and just plain. We had the leftovers for breakfast this morning and it was much better. Maybe it was the extra powdered sugar on top? The five-spice was more distinguishable and the cream was better set. The boy said he would like it again, but I think I prefer Anarchy Cake.

April 08, 2006

DINNER: April 8th-12th

Saturday- Minestrone

Sunday- Tofu Cutlets on Stir-Fried Greens from The Vegetarian Table: Thailand

Monday- Out

Tuesday- Savoy Cabbage and Fennel with Parsley-Lemon Butter from Local Flavors

Wednesday- Out

The next few weeks are going to be pretty chaotic with us going home, It Affects Me Week and Take Back the Night Week (Holy cow, that's us in the picture!!).

Farmer's Market April 8th

Shown: Savoy cabbage, turnips, fennel, radishes, lots of herbs including the lemon basil I bought accidently, blood oranges, limes, carrots and lo choy(?)

Not shown: 4 heads of cauliflower for my kugel and our new addition to the garden.

We didn't buy much this week because I'm leaving for my parents' on Wednesday and the boy is meeting me on Friday. Since we'll be away, there will be no market trip for us on Saturday, which fills me with sadness and woe. I'm definitely going to the Tuesday market though, otherwise I might get twitchy for a fix.

April 07, 2006

Friday, Friday

I'm going to try to post interesting recipes I found in the web-verse during the week here every Friday. It'll give us something to do during the weekend.

Heidi of 101 Cookbooks has some delicious looking lasagne.

The Accidental Hedonist, Kate, is making melon granita.

The folks over at CHOW posted a tasty looking pasta-vegetable dish.

Shuna at Eggbeater was busy making sexy leeks and rhubarb-apple galette.

The L.A. Times has some interesting recipes for creme fraiche sherbet and buttermilk sherbet.

Chika, she who eats, got a little crazy with some more rhubarb and strawberry recipes. Have I mentioned that I inherited my father's love of rhubarb?

This weekend, I'm going to tackle preserved lemons. And make some sort of pudding or ice cream. I have some cream and whole milk in my fridge calling out my name...

April 06, 2006

RECIPE: The Easiest Fruit Recipe Ever!

Usually, I hate superlatives in my recipes or cookbooks i.e. The Complete Guide to Vegetarian Cooking, The Best 100 Italian Recipes, blah, blah, blah. If they're so good, why are they in the bargain bin? However, this one really is that good and easy! I swear!

Buy a cheap cherimoya at the Farmer's Market, otherwise they are ridiculously expensive. Wait a few days for it to ripen. Wash very well and cut into chunks, with skin still on. Place fruit in a pitcher. Pour a bottle of white wine over fruit. The recipe originally called for Chardonnay, but I don't like it so I've used Riesling, Viogner, and Pinot Grigio with great success. I prefer a wine that slightly sweet but my partner doesn't, so use what you like. Let fruit and wine hang out in the fridge overnight. Eat and drink.

The cherimoya sucks up some of the wine and the wine tastes slightly like the fruit. Also, it is very easy to eat a lot without realizing how much wine you've actually imbibed. Umm, not like I would do anything like that.

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RECIPE: Pasta with Chickpeas, Garlic and Parsley

This is my second favorite quick pasta recipe.

Add 1 lb orecchiete or farfalle to boiling salted water.

While pasta is cooking, heat 5 cloves chopped garlic and 3 TB olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When garlic becomes fragrant, add 3 14 oz cans of drained chickpeas to pan. Cook until beans brown in places.

By this time the pasta shold be done. Save some of the cooking water and drain the rest. Return pasta to the pot and add the bean-garlic mixture, about 1/3 cup chopped parsley and lots of salt and pepper. If the pasta looks dry add some of the cooking water. You can add a few sprinkles of crushed red chili flakes here too, if you like. Serve with a chunk of Pecorino (or some other Italian hard cheese) to grate over pasta. Mmm, dinner in 15 minutes.

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April 05, 2006

Amaranth ramblings

How could I resist a pretty purple vegetable? I wasn't always a fan of the purple but ever since I got my tattoo, I'm suddenly drawn to purple things like a moth to a flame. It's getting a little ridiculous, actually. Next I'll be on a all purple-red diet and I'll eat eggplant and tomatoes with some strawberries thrown in. This isn't sounding too bad actually...

So amaranth, mysterious vegetable from the nice family that grows lots of cool herbs and greens, does not taste like spinach as they said it did. It tasted like... green stuff. We tried some raw and then we added it to our soup. I couldn't tell it was there really. Maybe my taste buds aren't sensitive enough?

We gave the trimmings to the bun, as we are wont to do and he didn't touch it. Usually he's a greedy little fuzz whenever he gets food in his bowl but some things, for reasons we cannot figure out, just do not pass muster with him. Don't even think about giving him arugula but he will gobble up mustard greens lickety-split. What a weird little guy.

Perhaps I'll do a better search on recipes and see what I can wrangle up. I love my green leafies and am more than willing to add one more to the line-up, especially one as pretty as this.

My google image search did not turn up a single picture that looked like the "amaranth" I had. Maybe it's something else? What is this stuff?

April 04, 2006

Want to go for a walk?

In my new neighborhood, I have seen fig trees, oranges, Meyer lemons, other lemons, kumquats, limes, tangerines, tons of avocados, artichokes, almonds(?), apricots and pomegranates growing.

Our friends and neighbors have a Meyer lemon growing in their yard and they told us we could swing by whenever we want and take some. So far, I've just made gelato with them (which was absolutely delicious) but I'm longing to make preserved lemons too.

In L.A., where I'm from-ish, anything that grows over the sidewalk/street is public property. I'm choosing to believe that the same holds true here.

Last night, with our chilaquiles, we had some "found" avocados and they were delicious.

Dried Cherry-Hazelnut Brownies

As a thank you present for repairing our oven, I made these out of Ripe for our neighbor. I've been longing to make something (anything!) out of my new book and this was the only thing I had all the ingredients for.

I liked them when I first made them on Sunday but we finished them off last night and the hazelnuts overpowered the taste of eveything, even the chocolate. I do want to try them again but with more fruit (the recipe only calls for 1/3 cup) and less nuts (1 whole cup is too much). I want to make it with almonds too and see how that turns out. It was super easy and required minimal clean up (yay!).

What's your favorite brownie recipe?

April 03, 2006

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Thanks Amazon!

I'm going to add the amaranth to my chilaquiles tonight. I'll let you how it turns out.

April 02, 2006

Kugel Review

So, the kugel. Surprisingly, it was pretty good. I was in a hurry, and didn't mash the cauliflower as much as I should have. Next time, it will be mashed proper-like. I thought it was kind of stingy with the almonds, so I would make it with a lot more nuts. Also, it needs a heavy hand with salt.

I was afraid that the caulifower would get too waterlogged from boiling, but it tasted sweet and clean, not washed out. It didn't make a satisfying dinner by itself, but for a side dish, it would be good. The portions it makes are huge, so the recipe could easily feed twice as many, at least for my family's seder. So I don't have to invest in cauliflower stocks just yet, as I thought I might.

DINNER: Week April 1st-7th

Saturday- Cauliflower Kugel with Herb Topping from Epicurious (review next)

Sunday- Pissaladerie from Home Baking

Monday- Chilaquiles adapted from Joy of Cooking (didn't have a chance to make this last week)

Tuesday- Thai Curry with Tofu and Veg

Wednesday- Pasta with Chickpeas and lots of Parsley and Garlic from Vegetarian Suppers

Thursday- Mushroom Risotto

Friday- Corn Cakes with Spiced Honey Syrup from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen

Farmers' Market 4/01/06

Our bounty from our farmers' market trip yesterday. You can see the cauliflower of doom, the most beautiful leeks I've ever seen, dill, parsley, basil, arugula, purple amaranth, lots of bunny food, a cherimoya and (sob!)the last mandarins of the season.

I've never eaten amaranth before, the people growing it said it tastes like spinach. Anyone know what to do with it? This week's menu up next.

April 01, 2006

RECIPE: Rice Pudding with Tropical Flavors

Kitchen experiment today. We had a surprise visit from a friend who's lactose intolerant and our oven was out of commission (our super-fantastic neighbor remedied that later though, thank goodness). Note all measurements are very approximate.

I cooked a cup of basmati rice in 1 3/4 cup low fat coconut milk, with about 2-3 TB sugar, the zest of one lime, 2 TB chopped candied ginger and a pinch of salt. After the rice was done, I let it cool a bit and I added about 1/4 cup chopped fresh pineapple. I set that aside and let it cool to room temp.

Right before dessert, I melted about 2 TB unsalted butter in a pan and added 3 TB brown sugar. I let the sugar melt and sizzle a bit then threw in 2 thickly sliced large bananas. Saute the bananas about 4-5 minutes on each side over a medium-high heat, until they are brown and pour in about 3 TB dark rum and the juice of half of the naked lime. Cook long enough to let the alcohol burn off.

Serve rice pudding in a small bowl with about 1/4 banana mixture and some toasted coconut ribbons sprinkled on top.

Conclusion, it was pretty tasty especially for a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of thing. I think next time, I'll add more sugar in the beginning and some vanilla when the rice is done cooking. Also, maybe dried pineapple instead of fresh? I thought that the pudding would be better with full fat coconut milk, or a mixture of regular milk and coconut. It wasn't really pudding-like, more sticky than anything. The rice needed more liquid and I added water because I was out of coconut milk, perhaps that's part of my problem. The Boy liked it how it was though. The friend who I made it for had to leave before dessert, of course.

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